'I beat myself today': Elder, Braves fall to Cubs

August 6th, 2023

CHICAGO -- was complimentary of a Cubs lineup that has been one of the best in baseball since the All-Star break.

But the rookie Braves starter also acknowledged his own shortcomings after Saturday’s 8-6 loss to Chicago at Wrigley Field.

“I think they’re swinging it really good right now, and I just flat out beat myself today,” Elder said. “I knew that if I could keep it close, we were going to have a chance, and obviously at the end, that's what happened.”

The Cubs entered the day first in MLB with 150 runs scored since the break, 31 more than the next team -- the Dodgers. Elder put himself in a tough spot out of the chute, and a five-run Chicago first inning put Atlanta in an early hole.

Elder walked the first two hitters he faced, Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner -- each on five pitches. The Cubs capitalized immediately, with the help of a Matt Olson error. With one out, Cody Bellinger’s grounder got through Olson at first base and trickled into right field, allowing Tauchman and Hoerner to score.

Dansby Swanson followed with a two-run homer, driving a 90.3 mph sinker down and in over the left-center-field wall. It came on a 3-2 count and the seventh pitch of the plate appearance.

Elder came back and struck out Christopher Morel, but it was only the second out of the inning. Jeimer Candelario followed with a solo homer that made it 5-0.

“Dansby is obviously a really good hitter. We've seen it on our side of things before too,” said Elder, who was charged with seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.

“I'm not going to say I was pleased with the result. But I thought I executed a pitch, and he won that battle, so hats off to him.”

Elder also issued a leadoff walk in the fifth, on four pitches to Bellinger. The Cubs outfielder scored on a Morel single, which ended Elder’s afternoon.

“He walked the first two hitters of the game,” manager Brian Snitker said of Elder’s outing. “That's never a good thing. But it was just a total package, I think, of a game. We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.

“I felt good even though we gave up the five runs. It was a tough first inning. We didn't help ourselves at all in that first inning. But I kind of felt like the guys were going to come back, and we did.”

The Braves trailed 7-2 when Elder exited and chipped away to get back in the game. They scored twice in the sixth to make it 7-4 but then left the bases loaded. Olson made it a two-run game with a two-run homer in the ninth, but the Cubs, 14-4 their last 18 games, held on.

“It's a good club. They have a lot of talent,” Snitker said. “They made some trades. They're an explosive team. Bellinger is bouncing back and having a really good year and is a really good player. So, it doesn't surprise me that they've been on a run.”

On Friday, Atlanta became the first team to reach 70 wins. Elder, the rookie right-hander and All-Star, has been a key part of that success, especially as the Braves’ rotation depth was hit with injuries. But he’s also been up and down lately.

Including Saturday, Elder has a 7.71 ERA over his last five starts. After allowing eight homers in his first 17 starts this season, he’s allowed six over the last five.

Saturday’s tough outing followed a pair of quality starts, but those came after back-to-back outings in which he allowed seven runs and pitched 3 1/3 and 2 2/3 innings, respectively.

“I beat myself today,” Elder said. “There were a couple starts where it was just kind of like I didn't really know the direction I was going.

“I'm not going to say I was pleased with it, because I wasn't at all. But I know I'm still on pace. So just get ready to go next week."

Said Snitker: “You're gonna have games. You’re not going to be perfect all the time. It's hard. He’s had two really good ones. It’s just part of the learning process and different things. He'll take away things from this game and hopefully make him better.”