The Braves provided enough offense to support Dallas Keuchel in a 5-3 Atlanta victory on Wednesday, giving the left-hander his first win of the season. Home runs from Brian McCann and Nick Markakis aided the effort, as the Braves increased their homer total to 50 for the month of June.
In the first inning Ronald Acuña, Jr. worked a walk from Yu Darvish, stole second base, reached third on the play as throw trickled into center field, then scored on a wild pitch to give the Braves a quick 1-0 lead. Dallas Keuchel got into a bit of trouble in the bottom half of the inning, but induced two ground balls, with one resulting in a double play, to escape the jam.
In the second inning, Brian McCann padded his All-Star resume with a towering home run to right field that careened off the scoreboard beyond the ivy. That last was the eighth of the season for McCann, and gave the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
In the third inning, Nick Markakis joined the fray with a three-run homer to right center that landed in the basket above the wall. This gave Dallas Keuchel a comfortable 5-0 lead as he looked dialed-in against a potent Cubs lineup.
The Braves took a 5-0 lead into the fourth inning when an approaching storm delayed the game for nearly an hour. Despite the delay, Keuchel remained in the game and worked into the sixth inning to give the bullpen a much-needed rest given the situation.
The Cubs jumped on the board in loud fashion in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Willson Contreras homered to left to make the score 5-1. In the fifth, Kris Bryant hit a ball off the scoreboard in left-center against Keuchel, cutting the deficit to 5-2 for the Cubs. In the sixth, Contreras hammered a one-out triple off the wall in right field, then scored on a Jason Heyward ground out to bring the score to 5-3.
The Cubs would get no closer, as the Braves bullpen worked 3 1⁄3 scoreless innings in relief of Keuchel, whose final line was: 5 2⁄3 innings with three earned runs on eight hits and two strikeouts. Not the greatest of final results, but given the delay and the potency of the Chicago lineup, this was a gutsy performance from the veteran.
In relief of Keuchel in the sixth was Jacob Webb, who induced a first-pitch ground out to end the inning. Sean Newcomb worked a scoreless seventh inning, allowing a single and nothing else. Touki Toussaint began the eighth, but got into trouble with a hit and walk that necessitated a two-out move to AJ Minter. The left-hander entered with the tying runs on base, and promptly struck out Victor Caratini to end the threat.
The Braves went quietly in the top of the ninth inning, setting the stage for a potential Cubs comeback. That was not to be, however, as AJ Minter re-emerged to work a perfect ninth inning with a strikeout of Bryant to end the game. It was yet another encouraging performance for Minter as he looks to round into form after a rough beginning to the 2019 season.
The Braves bullpen, combined with Keuchel, looked every bit the part of a contending relief corps as the month of June winds down. This has been a surprising development for Atlanta, but is a heartening trend as the sum of those parts continues to produce. The Braves have an opportunity to win the series with a victory on Thursday, so join us here for continued coverage.