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Washout: Cubs drop rain-soaked series finale

April 5, 2019

ATLANTA -- The Cubs came into their series in Atlanta with high hopes. Despite dropping two of three against the Rangers to open the season, they felt they were playing well and headed in the right direction. But things have not gone as planned, as the Braves completed a three-game

ATLANTA -- The Cubs came into their series in Atlanta with high hopes. Despite dropping two of three against the Rangers to open the season, they felt they were playing well and headed in the right direction.

But things have not gone as planned, as the Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Cubs on a rain-soaked Thursday evening, in a 9-4 rout. The North Siders were held to eight runs all series, and their bullpen proved consistently unreliable as they fell to 1-5 to start the season.

Still, as the Cubs travel north for a three-game set in Milwaukee, they are trying to come away with positives. It’s only six games into the season, and the team has shown flashes of strong play -- just not all at once in the same game.

“I’ve been here before, so it’s not [weighing] heavy right now for me,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The biggest thing is we’ve actually played some really good baseball. We’ve had a couple bad games here, but we’ve just got to get our bullpen in order. We played well in Texas, we hit the ball well like you saw at the end of the game here, and no question we have to play a more complete game of baseball.”

After a disastrous first start of the season, Cubs starter Yu Darvish looked solid the first two times through the Braves’ order, albeit taking an inefficient four innings to do so. However, after Darvish put the first two batters of the fifth on base, the bullpen took over and let things fall apart once again.

Continuing a troubling trend from the team’s earlier games, Carl Edwards Jr. issued back-to-back walks before Tyler Chatwood took over and served up a bases-clearing double to Nick Markakis. By the end of the game, three relievers combined to give up six runs in four innings, pushing the Cubs’ bullpen ERA to 9.71 with 19 walks in 21 1/3 innings on the year.

Meanwhile, Chicago hitters could not solve Braves lefty Max Fried, who dazzled over six scoreless innings. It took 18 batters for a Cub to reach base -- on Mark Zagunis’ single to center -- and they consistently pounded the ball down for 15 ground ball outs.

The Cubs were finally able to put together a rally in the ninth when Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez hit back-to-back home runs. All nine batters came up to the plate in the inning and salvaged what was nearly the club’s second shutout in three games.

“It doesn’t ease [the loss], but it definitely helps the hitters going into the next game,” Maddon said. “Batting around the order there, I think there will be somewhat of a mental carryover. I think that’s a good thing. The other thing is the guys kept playing. It was rainy and cold, and they were beating up on us pretty good. Our guys didn’t quit, and I like that.”

The lack of offense in Atlanta was especially shocking considering the team scored 28 runs in Texas, but, of course, that also means that the team is still averaging a healthy 6.0 runs per game. There is a clear sense of anxiety to end their five-game losing streak, but in many ways, the team is treating it no differently than it would a five-game skid in the middle of the summer.

“We’re only, what, six games in?” center fielder Albert Almora said. “It’s early, so it’s no reason to panic. These hurt. Obviously we hate losing ballgames, but we turn the page. Tomorrow we have Milwaukee, and that’s all you can control.”