Cubs drop Feldman's debut to Braves
ATLANTA -- Scott Feldman was one pitch away from getting out of a jam on Friday, but he had already thrown too many pitches.
Justin Upton drove in two runs, including one on a solo homer in the first, and Juan Francisco hit a key two-run single in the fifth to lift the Braves to a 4-1 victory over the Cubs on Friday at Turner Field.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted they were going to take a little different approach with Feldman (0-1), who gave up 25 runs over 20 innings in Cactus League action. The Cubs wanted the right-hander to be more efficient with his pitches, but he wasn't.
"He threw a lot of pitches that were uncompetitive pitches," Sveum said of Feldman's outing. "He was managing to get through a night where he didn't have much command of anything.
"He was basically one pitch away from getting out of that [in the fifth]," Sveum said. "We didn't want him to be at 100 pitches, but at that time, it was his game to win or lose. He could keep it at 2-1 or give it up. Unfortunately, Francisco had a good at-bat and ended up blooping one into left field and that was that."
The Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth after Feldman walked two batters and hit another. That set up Francisco's hit, which made it 4-1, and Feldman exited, having thrown 102 pitches over 4 2/3 innings.
"That was the at-bat of the game for me," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "[Francisco] gets bases loaded there with a 3-2 count and battles and battles. He flared one in there to give us a [three-run] lead and a little wiggle room."
Feldman was making his first trip to Atlanta, but he had faced Upton before. Upton apparently remembered something. The right-hander fell behind 0-2 with two outs in the first, and then lined the next pitch over the left-field fence for his third home run.
"I had a little trouble with my command tonight and they got into some deep counts and made me throw a lot of pitches," Feldman said. "That's a tough lineup there. When you're behind in the count, you can't give in and they battled well and made me throw way too many pitches."
Andrelton Simmons walked to open the Braves' third and stole second, despite a perfect throw from catcher Welington Castillo. Simmons then advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on Upton's sacrifice fly.
Scott Hairston, starting in right field as part of the Cubs' lineup against left-handed pitchers, led off the fifth against Mike Minor (1-0) with his first home run to close the gap to 2-1.
"It wasn't really a pitch I was sitting on or looking for," Hairston said of the slider from Minor. "I was able to be aggressive and put a good swing on it. I wanted to give myself a chance, because early in the at-bat I was a little late on the fastball and I wanted to make sure I was ready for the next one. I think that was a mistake -- [one of the] the very few mistakes he made tonight was that one I hit out."
Minor admitted it was a bad pitch.
"It got more plate than I wanted," Minor said. "I knew I hung it. But I had to come back in and battle the rest of the game."
The Cubs were happy to no longer be shivering after opening the season in chilly Pittsburgh. But the warmer temps weren't enough to get the offense going. They began the day with the fewest hits in the National League and lowest team batting average and slugging percentage.
"Nobody's swinging the bat at all right now," Sveum said. "Somebody's going to have to step up and get hot and hopefully it's the whole team at one time. We don't have a whole lot going on offensively right now."
Leadoff man David DeJesus, who didn't start, but got a pinch-hit at-bat, doesn't have a hit yet. Anthony Rizzo has one, and that was his home run on the first pitch he saw on Opening Day.
After Hairston's homer, Castillo singled, which was the first time the Cubs had back-to-back hits since the first inning on Opening Day.
"It's too soon to call it struggling," Hairston said. "We as hitters need to go out and put together good at-bats and I think we're all capable of doing that."
Friday was the start of 19 consecutive games for the Cubs against teams that finished .500 or better last season.
"This first month, the schedule we have, and the teams we're playing, it's very important to keep your head above water and then get completely healthy and go from there," Sveum said.