Bryce Elder breezed through the first inning, retiring the side in order. He found himself in some trouble in the second as Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki reached on back-to-back singles. Elder got Dansby Swanson to ground into a force play for the first out to put runners at the corners. He then struck out Christopher Morel for the second out.
Then, a strange play happened with Yan Gomes at the plate. Swanson took off for second. Albies received Sean Murphy’s throw, but Swanson stopped short of the bag. Albies threw behind Bellinger at third, but both runners managed to find safety. That would prove costly, as Gomes reached on a swinging bunt up the third base line. Bellinger scored on the play to make it 1-0. Miles Mastrobuoni then followed with another single that scored Swanson to push the advantage to 2-0. Elder got Mike Tauchman to bounce back to the mound to end the inning.
The Braves offense started slowly against Cubs lefty Justin Steele. Ozzie Albies had a hustle double in the first, but was left stranded. Michael Harris II hit a ground rule double with two outs in the second, but Sean Murphy struck out to end the inning.
Things again went sideways for Elder in the third as he walked Nico Hoerner to begin the inning. Ian Happ flew out for the first out. Hoerner stole second and Elder walked Bellinger to put runners at first and second. Suzuki then sent a liner to right center that Ronald Acuña Jr. made a sliding attempt on, but was unable to come up with. The ball bounced all the way to the wall and both runners scored to make it 4-0.
The Braves brought the infield in, but Elder issued his third walk of the inning to Swanson. After a visit by Rick Kranitz, Elder got Morel to line out to Riley at third for the second out. He struck out Gomes to avoid any further damage.
Elder came back out for the fourth and again allowed the leadoff man to reach, this time on a single by Mastrobuoni. He then issued his fourth walk of the game to Mike Tauchman. Elder got Hoerner and Happ on fly outs, but again was unable to get off the hook as Bellinger singled on the first pitch he saw to make it 5-0. That would be it for Elder as Brian Snitker went to his bullpen for Jackson Stephens. With an 0-2 count on Suzuki, Bellinger broke for second. Murphy, having learned from the prior escapade in the game, faked the throw down and then threw behind Pete Crow-Armstrong, who was eventually ruled out of the baseline for the third out.
It was another ugly outing for Elder. His defense did him no favors in the two-run second, but both runners that scored in the third reached on walks. He allowed seven hits, five runs and issued four more walks in just 3 2/3 innings. He has walked nine combined over his last two starts.
While Elder was struggling, Steele settled in. He struck out the side in the third and then added two more punchouts in the fourth. He retired eight straight hitters before Harris singled with one out in the fifth, but Murphy grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Cubs added another run off Stephens in the sixth as Mastrobuoni singled, moved to second on a bunt by Crow-Armstrong and then scored on a single by Happ.
The Braves finally got on the board in the sixth as Kevin Pillar took Steele deep to left for his ninth home run of the season. That homer was the Braves’ 300th of the season.
After an Acuña ground out, Albies doubled to the right field corner. Steele then walked Austin Riley, and Matt Olson delivered a single to left that scored Albies to make it 6-2. That ended Steele’s night as David Ross called for Jose Cuas. Marcell Ozuna greeted Cuas with a rocket double to left that scored Riley to cut the lead to 6-3.
Pierce Johnson struck out two in a perfect seventh. Javier Assad took over for the Cubs in the home half of the frame and walked Murphy to begin the inning. Eddie Rosario entered as a pinch-hitter for Pillar, but went down swinging for the first out. Acuña then drove one out to right for his 41st homer of the season to cut the deficit to 6-5.
Johnson stayed in to start the eighth and allowed a single to Gomes. He was then replaced by Brad Hand. Mastrobuoni then dropped down a bunt that Hand fielded and fired to second in time to cut down Gomes. Mastrobuoni stole second, but Hand struck out pinch-hitter Patrick Wisdom for the second out. He then got Hoerner to ground out to Riley to end the inning.
Drew Smyly entered in the eighth for the Cubs and walked Olson to start the inning. Olson moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Smyly struck out Ozuna for the first out. Another wild pitch moved Olson to third and Smyly walked Orlando Arcia to put runners at the corners. Harris struck out for the second out, but pinch-runner Forrest Wall stole second to move into scoring position. Sean Murphy then lifted a fly ball to right that Suzuki, amazingly, let drop for an error. Both runners scored on the play to give the Braves a 7-6 lead.
Raisel Iglesias got Happ to fly out for the first out of the inning, but Bellinger followed with a single to center. Iglesias then struck out Suzuki and Swanson to pick up his 31st save of the season.
With the win, the Braves improve to 101-56 for the season and reduce their magic number to clinch the home field advantage in the National League to one. The series will continue on Tuesday with Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Cubs. The Braves have yet to announce their starter for Tuesday’s game.