Despite making a two-out rally to tie the game at three runs apiece in the eighth inning, the Braves once again flopped in extra innings as they took a 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The big hope for tonight’s game was that Charlie Morton would find a way to get his season on track after having two rough outings in his most recent appearances. Unfortunately, the first inning was a bit of an omen in that it took Morton a lot just to get three outs. Morton finished what ended up being another short night with four walks and two of them came in the first inning. He was able to get out of that first frame without giving up a run, but that frame didn’t exactly instill much confidence for the veteran hurler going forward.
Charlie Morton’s third walk of the night ended up costing him. In the second inning, Patrick Wisdom coaxed a one-out free pass out of Morton and the Cubs then proceeded to manufacture a run out of the mistake. Jason Heyward’s single moved Wisdom from first to third and then Wisdom eventually scored on a ground out. Once again, it was an inning where it seemed fortunate that Morton escaped with “just” the damage that he did give up.
The Braves had a chance to respond in the bottom of the frame, as Travis d’Arnaud got things going after he got hit by a pitch to lead off the second. Adam Duvall poked one to the opposite side of the shift to get two men on and after Travis Demeritte had his first hard luck batted ball of the night, Dansby Swanson walked to load the bases. That brought Ozzie Albies to the plate and Mark Leiter Jr. was able to catch Ozzie fishing badly for a changeup that was nowhere near the dish. The sad dribbler ended the scoring threat for the Braves and that was also an omen of how this night would go for Atlanta at the plate.
The Cubs immediately made the Braves pay for squandering their own chance in the previous inning, as Rafael Ortega blooped one out of Marcell Ozuna’s grasp for a ground rule double and then Seiya Suzuki immediately brought Ortega home with a more conventional-looking double. Following a wild pitch moving Suzuki to third base and a sacrifice fly, the Braves now found themselves in a three-run hole after the third inning.
The Braves cut that to a two-run deficit in the fifth inning. At this point, both teams were into their bullpen — Charlie Morton’s night ended in frustrating fashion once again (2.1 IP, four hits, four walks, only one strikeout and three runs allowed) and the Cubs decided to let Leiter end on a high note after he escaped that bases loaded situation with zero runs given up. Keegan Thompson got the ball after Leiter and his trip through the middle of Atlanta’s order saw the Braves scratch together a run. Matt Olson walked with one out, Austin Riley followed that up with a single and then Travis d’Arnaud poked one into the outfield to bring home Olson and put the Braves on the board. That did it for the Braves when it came to scoring and that was all that Atlanta would get for the time being.
Much credit has to be given to the bullpen for really holding down the fort following Charlie Morton’s early exit. Jesse Chavez was the first man out and the baton was successfully passed down the line to Kenley Jansen. This included William Woods coming in and making a successful Major League debut with a scoreless inning that included a strikeout. The bullpen was doing its job and living up to what was expected of them going into this series, but the offense was still struggling mightily with Chicago’s bullpen.
That changed in the eighth inning, as the Braves lineup finally came to life. The damage was done with two outs and it also came from some of the most unlikely candidates on the team at this current moment. Alex Dickerson picked up his second hit of the night (!), Adam Duvall followed that up with a hit (!!) that ended with him at second base and Dickerson at third, Travis Demeritte walked to load the bases and then Dansby Swanson poked one into right field to bring in two runs (!!!!!!!!!). Ozzie Albies grounded out to end the inning, but the Braves had life and eventually, a chance to take this game into extra innings.
If you were expecting things to be a little different for the Braves in a new year with the wacky Ghost Runner rule in effect, then I’m sad to say that you were a little too optimistic tonight. Tyler Matzek got the ball for the tenth inning and immediately gave up a double to William Contreras to go behind again. With one out, Tyler Matzek threw an uncharacteristic wild pitch and that ended up not mattering since Matzek gave up his first regular season home run since September 7, 2021. Patrick Wisdom put the Cubs up 6-3, the Braves went down 1-2-3 in the tenth and that was that.
Thoughts on the automatic runner rule? pic.twitter.com/bfBUoVyrTG— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 28, 2022
From start to finish, this was a night of frustration for the Braves. The top of the order didn’t do much, which meant that a rare good night for Braves hitters six-through-nine in the order ended up going to waste. This was also a bit of a waste for the bullpen, as a really good night ended up getting ruined as the Braves carried over their extra inning struggles to the new season.