ATLANTA -- The way the Cubs were defending, it often felt like an April Fools’ Day joke gone wrong.
The Cubs committed six errors on Monday -- including four in the first three frames and at least one for every infielder -- en route to an 8-0 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park.
It was the worst defensive game under manager Joe Maddon and the most errors the Cubs have committed since they racked up six in 11 innings on Sept. 12, 2006, against the Dodgers. It’s the first time they've committed six in a nine-inning game since 1982, and it's the first time a Major League team has had six errors in a game since the Mets on Sept. 1, 2014.
The poor play was especially surprising since the Cubs had played three clean games to begin the season. Additionally, Chicago didn’t commit more than three errors in a single game last year.
“We attempted to make plays we shouldn’t have attempted to make,” Maddon said. “More mental errors -- I know there were physical errors, but they were more like, to me, mental errors -- that I don’t know why they popped up today. I thought we were in pretty good shape coming into this game. I do have a lot of confidence that that will go away.”
Things got off on the wrong foot from the start when Kyle Hendricks’ second pitch of the game garnered a towering foul pop fly from Ender Inciarte. Left fielder Mark Zagunis sprinted over, but he dropped the ball. One pitch later, Inciarte barreled a ball 414 feet over the center-field fence for a leadoff homer.
The first inning continued to unravel when Hendricks walked Ronald Acuña Jr. to put two runners on. Nick Markakis hit a ground ball to first that might’ve gone for a double play, but Javier Baez airmailed the throw to first, which allowed a runner to score.
Baez compounded the error one batter later when he called off Zagunis in left to attempt a running over-the-shoulder catch, which fell for an Ozzie Albies double. And, again, one pitch later, the Braves punished Chicago’s miscues with a two-run single by Brian McCann.
“Weird game,” Maddon said. “I know it was the home opener, but we did not have to cooperate that much. It’s just a really poorly played game on our part from the beginning. It just was. A lot of awkward things. The errors were not difficult plays that we just did not make, so all of a sudden all these errors pop up.
“We made some mistakes that we have not been making. They turned it into four runs early, and that’s what made the game look so bad.”
Sometimes the mistakes went from routine to almost comical. With two outs in the fourth inning, first baseman Anthony Rizzo fumbled a slow roller by McCann, and when he picked up the ball, he tossed it well over Hendricks’ head and into the dugout, allowing the slow-footed Braves catcher to reach second. The Cubs were only able to escape damage when Hendricks struck out Dansby Swanson.
The Cubs were not so fortunate with more unforced errors in the middle frames. After Brandon Kintzler intentionally walked McCann to load the bases in the fifth, Swanson lined one off Kintzler’s glove for an infield single. The bleeding could have stopped there, but second baseman David Bote tried to pick off Albies at third, and the ball got away, allowing him to score.
Finally, Freddie Freeman hit a long fly ball to left to lead off the sixth, but Zagunis took a poor route and could only swat at the ball as it sailed over his head for a double. Two batters later, third baseman Kris Bryant bobbled a routine grounder, and the Braves capitalized on an Albies single to push their lead to eight.
“It was just one of those days,” Bote said. “You just flush it and go the day after tomorrow. Only on April Fools’ does a game like that happen. That’s why we’ve got 158 left to go.”