The Atlanta Braves continued to look strong heading into the Postseason with another solid performance tonight. This time, the offense kept on producing and the pitching staff performed well as a collective as the Braves clinched homefield advantage throughout the Postseason with a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Both teams wasted no time getting their offense going in this one, as the two teams both made it onto the scoreboard in the first inning. AJ Smith-Shawver found himself in a tiny bit of trouble as he walked Mike Tauchman to lead off the game and then had to deal with Tauchman in scoring position after he stole second. A ground out and a fielder’s choice later, the Cubs had their first run on the board after Travis d’Arnaud was unable to put a tag on Tachman during a play at the plate. The scoring stopped there, so the Braves had a one-run deficit to deal with once it was their turn to hit.
Fortunately, Atlanta was able to quickly turn it into a one-run deficit for the Cubs once their half of the first inning rolled around. Marcus Stroman was able to get the first two batters of the game out but he gave up a single to Austin Riley with two out. That brought Matt Olson to the plate, who was able to take a pitch that was low and inside of the zone and pulled it deep to right field. The screaming liner stayed fair and landed in the Chop House area, so suddenly the Braves went from trailing to leading after Olson hit his 54th home run of the season. This was also the 136th RBI of the season for Olson, which is a new single-season franchise record for the Braves. Matt Olson has been having a wonderful season at the plate and the fact that he's now on top of the single-season home run and RBI charts for the Braves is proof of that.
This was the start of a three-inning offensive assault for the Braves while AJ Smith-Shawver started to get comfortable on the mound. Eddie Rosario made it to second base to lead off the inning after Ian Happ bobbled what should’ve been a catch for an out. Instead of that being the first out of the inning, Rosario ended up being the first run of the inning for the Braves after Michael Harris II hit a one-out double to make it a two-run lead for the Braves. Ronald Acuña Jr. came up to the plate with two outs and looped a 2-2 pitch straight into shallow center field to plate Harris and make it a 4-1 game at that point.
The third inning began with Austin Riley greeting Cubs reliever Javier Assad with a line drive deep to center field. The ball got over Mike Tauchman's head and by the time the Cubs got the ball back to the infield, Riley was on third base with a stand-up triple. Eddie Rosario returned to the plate with runners on the corners and one out and hit a soft bouncer to Assad. Unfortunately for Chicago, there was yet another defensive miscue in this series as Assad was unable to field the baseball cleanly and Riley was able to sprint into home plate to make it a 5-1 game.
That's how the game stayed until the sixth inning, as the Braves were able to make it through those six innings with AJ Smith-Shawver pitching 3.2 innings of no-hit ball with just the one run allowed and then Kyle Wright entering in relief and giving Atlanta 2.1 innings himself. Wright was the one who ended up conceding Chicago's second run of the game after Nico Hoerner led off the frame with a single and then Seiya Suzuki hit a double to get the Cubs back on the board for the first time since the first inning. Other than the two runs, this was a lovely outing for both Smith-Shawver and Wright.
Joe Jiménez pitched a clean seventh inning to get the Braves to the eighth, which is when A.J. Minter was called upon for relief duty. The left-handed reliever found himself in a bit of a situation in this frame when he was in a situation with runners on the corners and one out. Seiya Suzuki hit a single the opposite way to get the Cubs a run closer and also bring Dansby Swanson to the plate as the potential tying run. Instead, the former Braves shortstop hit a ground ball directly to the current Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia, who turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the scoring threat and preserve the lead at two runs for the Braves.
Atlanta was unable to add on to the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, so that meant that it was time for Raisel Iglesias to enter the game in the ninth inning for a save attempt. Iglesias made no mistake as he shut the Cubs down in order to lock down the win and give Atlanta their 103rd win of the season. Despite the fact that the Baltimore Orioles clinched their division with their 100th win of the season, Atlanta's win tonight clinched the best record in baseball for 2023 and the number one overall seed for the Postseason.
This may not have been as dramatic as the first two games were but there are no room for complaints when you pull off a sweep — especially against a team that had as much to play for as the Cubs did. This was a loss that Chicago could ill afford to take but this was a win that could be extremely useful for the Braves if they end up making a deep run in October like we're all expecting of them. This team just keeps moving forward and are now looking to end the season with a flourish as the Nationals come into town for the final series of the season tomorrow night.