CHICAGO – We’ve come to expect such perennial failure from the Chicago Cubs that to lose a series against them feels like a major disappointment to the fans of any contending team.
But the fact of the matter is, the Braves didn’t beat themselves in two of three games this week against the Cubs; they got beat by a team that’s pitching as well or better than any in the majors in recent weeks. Especially the three starters the Braves faced.
They lost to Jeff Samardzija, who is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his past three starts, and Paul Maholm, who is 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in his past four. The Braves won a game started by the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, who leads the majors with a 1.02 ERA, has a .164 opponents’ average, and has allowed one earned run in 21 innings over his past three starts.
Seriously, folks, Cubs pitchers are doing some work.
Which is not to say the Braves couldn’t have or shouldn’t have won the series, which is their goal in every series – to win it. But to act as though it was a terrible failure losing two of three to the Cubs this week is to completely ignore what Chicago’s North Side team has done lately and base opinion more on what they’ve done in the past. Which is stink up the joint more often than not.
The Cubs started out this season 3-11, but since then they have a 10-7 record and majors-leading 2.51 ERA, a stretch that includes series wins against the Braves and NL West-leading Dodgers, and a split with the NL Central-leading Cardinals.
“You hear people talk about they are not a very good offensive club,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “but that pitching will keep them in games. Wow, it’s pretty good pitching we faced. They keep pitching like that, they’ll be OK.”
The Cubs’ ERA (3.66) is now more than a half-run better than the Braves (4.25).
The Braves pitched quite well in Chicago, too. In fact, their 2.52 ERA for the three games in Chicago was more than three runs lower than the 5.59 ERA the Braves posted during their three-game series sweep at Colorado before going to Chicago. Think about that.
After hitting .347 with seven homers and scoring 29 runs at Coors Field, the Braves hit .202 with one homer and four runs total in the three games at Wrigley Field.
Blight of day
Not long ago all the Cubs’ home games were day games. That would not be a good thing for the Braves this season.
The Braves have almost as many losses in 10 day games (4-6 record) as they have in 22 night games (15-7). And on this one, more of the fault has been with the hitters.
The team’s 3.92 ERA in day games is nearly a half-run lower than in night games (4.39), but the Braves have hit just .230 with a .304 on-base percentage in day games. They’re hitting .280 with .341 OBP in night games and averaging about 5.6 runs per game.
The Braves have totaled 43 runs in 10 day games, and 21 of those came in two games against the Mets (14-6 win) and Rockies (7-2 win). They averaged just over 2.7 runs per game in their other eight day games.
Michael Bourn has hit a blistering .410 in day games and Freddie Freeman has hit .333, while rest of Braves have hit a collective .187 (46-for-246) in day games.
Brian McCann has a .095 average (2-for-21) with one homer and a .200 OBP in seven day games, and Jason Heyward has played in all 10 day games and hit .129 (4-for-31) with one homer and a .270 OBP.
Statistical oddity: Closer Craig Kimbrel has pitched in only one of 10 day games, while he’s pitched in 11 of the Braves’ 22 night games. Relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty have each pitched in only two day games. O’Flaherty has pitched in 11 night games and Venters in 10.
Bourn streak snapped
Bourn’s 12-game hitting streak snapped Wednesday, but he’s still hit .360 (40-for-111) with 10 stolen bases and a .427 OBP in his past 26 games.
Swings that miss and a funny story
Martin Prado’s 10.7 percent of swings that missed is the seventh-lowest in the NL, while Dan Uggla’s 32.7 percent of swings that missed is the fourth-highest.
Uggla’s 34 strikeouts were tied for fourth in the NL before Thursday, and Freeman’s 32 were tied for ninth.
Which leads us to a funny exchange that took place via texts between Chipper Jones and major league whiff leader, Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox, whose staggering 47 strikeouts (in 111 at-bats) were eight more than any other big leaguer.
Dunn also had 10 homers, tied for third in the majors before Thursday.
“I texted him this morning,” Jones said Wednesday in Chicago, smiling as the recounted their exchange, “and said, Dunner, you’re going to be the first major leaguer to strike out 300 times and hit 100 homers.”
“And he texted me back: Maybe you can come here to Chicago and give me the signs from second base.”
Jones said when he got that text back from Dunn, he sat up in bed laughing out loud for a good while in his hotel room.