The Cubs stayed red hot, winning Sunday to take a very impressive series win from the best team in baseball. Chicago was able to rally back from an early deficit and hold off the outstanding Braves offense for a second consecutive day.
Atlanta struck first against Justin Steele in the top of the 3rd inning when National League home run leader Matt Olson hit a mammoth two-run tank to the back of the right field bleachers. The Cubs took advantage of Charlie Morton‘s wildness in the bottom of the frame to tie the score. Ian Happ had an RBI groundout and Dansby Swanson drew a bases-loaded walk to even the game.
Olson put the Braves back on top with a run-scoring single in the 5th, but the damage would have been worse if Mike Tauchman had not thrown out Ronald Acuña Jr. at the plate on an Ozzie Albies single earlier in the inning. Chicago responded immediately in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good.
Tauchman singled and stole second, then was knocked in with a base hit by Happ. Cody Bellinger ripped a double with the runner going to bring home the go-ahead tally. Collin McHugh took over for Morton and was greeted by an RBI single from Jeimer Candelario to give the North Siders a 5-3 advantage.
Atlanta had a major opportunity against a tiring Steele in the top of the 6th inning after two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out for Acuña. Reliever Michael Fulmer was thrust into the jam and promptly hit the MVP candidate with a pitch to force in a run.
Fulmer locked in at that point and very impressively put up back-to-back strikeouts of Albies and Austin Riley to preserve the one-run lead. Swanson doubled home Bellinger for a vital insurance run in the bottom of the 7th that made it 6-4.
Michael Fulmer with 2 big Ks to end the inning 🔥 pic.twitter.com/dNZeqeGM3N
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 6, 2023
José Cuas and Mark Leiter Jr. kept the Braves off the scoreboard in the 7th and the 8th to set up a save opportunity. Adbert Alzolay allowed a leadoff double to Albies in the final inning but retired the next three in order to save the victory. (Box score)
Cubs were on the verge of disaster in the top of the 6th with the bases loaded and the heart of Atlanta’s lineup coming up. Fulmer displayed the nasty stuff that made him de facto closer before the season to strike out two consecutive batters. He has really done a terrific job since his horrible first month and a half.
Why the Cubs Won
The offense continues to score 5+ runs a game and the bullpen was fantastic against one of the scariest lineups you will ever see.
Stats That Matter
- Steele threw a career-high 110 pitches on Sunday and he was clearly gassed at the end but he gave his team a chance to win: 5.1 IP, 4 R, 3 ER 8 H, 7 K, and 4 BB.
- Candelario got on base three more times with two walks in addition to his single as he thrives back in a Cubs uniform.
- Bellinger also reached three times and has been just huge the last two months.
- Swanson came to play against his former team and had two crucial RBI.
After Friday’s lopsided defeat, it looked like the Cubs would be very lucky to salvage a game against the mighty Braves. Instead, they won the next two and pulled into a virtual tie for the final NL Wild Card spot. They have won six consecutive series and the last two were against teams that were in first place when they played them. The underlying numbers always suggested this was a quality squad but now the actual results are matching it. David Ross and company are in it for real now and it’s gonna be a heck of a ride down the stretch.
Chicago heads to New York for three games at Citi Field against the Mets starting Monday at 6:05pm CT. Drew Smyly gets the starting nod against Kodai Senga with coverage available on MLB Network (out-of-market only), Marquee, and 670 The Score