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Braves scratch first win of season, trounce Cubs 8-0

Contrary to popular belief, the Braves will not be going 0-162 in 2019

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves took advantage of some Bad News Bears-esque defense from the Cubs on Monday night, and the offensive machine finally showed its capabilities on the way to an 8-0 victory. After a start from Sean Newcomb that was heavy on the base runners (as per usual), Wes Parsons came on in relief and picked up his first Major League win.

The Braves record now stands at 1-3, but this is a huge weight lifted off the team’s shoulder.

On the offensive side, Josh Donaldson had his best game as a Brave, reaching base three times, and both Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuña planted souvenirs into the seats. Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies kept their hit streaks alive for the 2019, as both have reached safely in every game of this young season.

The Braves bullpen, which struggled so tremendously this past weekend in Philadelphia, allowed zero walks. Even if it’s only one game, that’s a great sign.

Newcomb’s performance was somewhere between his 2018 form and his 2019 Spring Training form. He did not allow a run, which is good news, but he did allow ten base runners - four of which came via walks. Barely half of his pitches - 49 of 91 - went for strikes, and it seemed like he went to a two-ball count on every single hitter. His control issues kept him from getting out of the fifth inning; even with a 5-0 lead, Brian Snitker felt he was better suited to rely on a shaky bullpen than endure any more of Newk’s control hiccups.

In the bottom of the first, a dropped foul ball by Mark Zagunis set the tone for an ugly defensive night for the Cubs. Given new life after the dropped ball, Inciarte quickly whipped the sell-out crowd into a frenzy by mashing one into the right field seats, staking the Braves to a 1-0 lead before they logged their first home out of the season. The subpar defense continued later in the inning, as a throwing error from Javier Baez led to Josh Donaldson scoring the Braves’ second run. The following batter, an Ozzie Albies pop-up into no man’s land - scored as a double - hit the grass between three Cubs fielders and put runners on second and third. Brian McCann roped a two-run single on the first pitch he saw, and before the first was over, the Braves were up 4-0.

Newk’s consistent control issues ate at him a bit during the second inning, as he worked around two walks - one of which was to Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks. In the third inning, Newcomb came away unscathed after loading the bases.

Sensing that a 4-0 lead might not hold with the way Newcomb was pitching, Ronald Acuña took it upon himself to extend the lead to 5-0.

That gorgeous swing was the first of what will hopefully be many home runs for Acuña this year. Mike Foltynewicz, who was mid-interview during Acuña’s blast, summed it up best with his succinct, “That was loud.”

After Anthony Rizzo singled to lead off the fifth inning, Snitker called upon Parsons - the Grapefruit League Cy Young - who instantly induced a double play to close the book on Newcomb. Parsons’ clean inning of work was enough to garner his first big league victory. Congrats to him.

The Cubs’ shoddy defense was on display again in the bottom of the fifth. After a Nick Markakis single and a double by Ozzie Albies, McCann was intentionally walked to load the bases. As he has done all Spring, Dansby Swanson mashed a ball back up the middle, and it hit Hendricks so hard it ricocheted out past David Bote at second base. Bote tried to pick McCann off second, but his throw missed the mark and his error - their fifth of the night - allowed Albies to trot home. Just like that, it was 7-0 Braves.

The Braves tacked another run on in the 6th inning. After Freddie Freeman slapped a double past Zagunis (who had a dreadful night in left field), a Kris Bryant error - the sixth Cubs blunder of the night - allowed Markakis to reach. Ozzie Albies, on his first at-bat against a lefty this year, reached on an infield single. Freddie crossing the plate stretched the lead to 8-0.

The rest of the game was quiet, aside from this preposterous display of teamwork by Swanson and Donaldson.

In his first appearance of the year, Arodys Vizcaino worked around a double to secure a scoreless ninth inning.

The Braves are off tomorrow, but Wednesday begins a streak of twelve consecutive days with a game. Baseball season is back in full swing, folks.

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