Cubs sink Braves behind back-to-back homers
CHICAGO -- Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler greeted their former teammate Edwin Jackson by opening the eighth inning with back-to-back home runs, giving the Cubs a 9-7 comeback win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs moved five games in front of the Giants in the race to claim the National League's second Wild Card spot with their 28th comeback win of the season. After falling behind, 7-3, in the fifth inning, they steadily cut the deficit before Addison Russell tied it on a solo homer that was reviewed by the umpires. The Cubs produced the decisive blasts in the eighth at the expense of Jackson, the veteran right-hander that they released just after the All-Star break.
"When you face the guys that you caught, you start overthinking and start to think along with the pitchers," Montero said, having caught for Jackson this season and before in Arizona. "That's when you get in trouble rather than just think about your game plan. Today, I didn't see the ball well early, and I got to say, I was really lucky the way that ball found my barrel."
Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate and A.J. Pierzynski notched three hits, including a two-run single in Atlanta's five-run fifth inning. But their offensive contributions were not enough to overcome the struggles endured by Braves starter Williams Perez, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings and factored heavily in Atlanta's sixth straight loss.
"It's just a tough loss for us," Swisher said. "Things haven't been going well for us as of late. We're trying to turn things around and get things going. We had a great start to the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fifth-inning frenzy: The Braves tallied five runs in the top of the fifth inning with the assistance of Pierzynski's two-run single and Swisher's two-run homer. But the Cubs answered with three runs, when Kris Bryant and Montero chased Perez with consecutive two-out doubles in the bottom half of the frame.
"I don't remember the last time we've scored five in one game, let alone in one frame." Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Then they got right back in it."
"That was a really good win for us," added Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. "When we go down like that [in the fifth], we just needed a run or two to scratch away."
Power from both sides: This was Swisher's first multi-homer game since Sept. 15, 2013 and the 14th time he has homered from both sides of the plate, tying him with Mark Teixeira for the most in Major League history. Swisher began his power barrage in the second inning with a two-run shot that erased the lead the Cubs gained when Dexter Fowler tripled and scored in the first. More >
Coming up short: It was another shortened outing for a Cubs starter after Dan Haren lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits. The right-hander became the fourth Chicago starter in the last five games to pitch five or fewer innings. Since he was acquired from Miami at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Haren has not gone beyond six innings. Cubs manager Joe Maddon had hoped to keep him in longer, but brought in Travis Wood to close the fifth. Wood allowed a double, single and home run.
"Obviously, I'd like to do better, be out there longer and stuff like that," Haren said. "When it comes down to it, when we've got 40 or 50 games left, whatever we've got left, it's just about winning games. I think everybody has to just put their self… wanting to do good for themselves behind them and just go out and just do the best they can for the team because that's what it's about at this point in the year."
"Playing in this park as much as I have, I know that once you get the ball in the air, anything is possible," -- Jackson, who had allowed just one hit over the 4 1/3 scoreless innings he had completed since joining the Braves on Aug. 15.
"That [home run] Soler hit went straight up in the air. I thought it was going to Simba [Andrelton Simmons] at short. That ball just kept carrying out and carrying out. But, hey man, I guess this ballpark plays a little different on different days." -- Swisher, on the windy conditions
"That's something that seems to be an issue at the ballpark here. It's been going on for several years now." -- Maddon, joking after Russell's home run in the seventh that was interfered with by a fan
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Braves are 14-5 when they score at least 7 runs this year. They were 149-3 in such games from 2010-2014.
The Braves did not gain the result they wanted when a boundary review took place after it appeared that a fan may have interfered with Russell's game-tying home run off Matt Marksberry in the sixth inning. Replays showed the fan made contact with the ball at the edge of the basket in center field, but the call stood because the replay official could not determine the contact affected the ball leaving the playing field. More >
Braves: Matt Wisler will take the mound as Atlanta and Chicago conclude this four-game series on Sunday at 2:20 p.m. ET. Wisler has produced a 7.20 ERA while totaling just 20 innings through his first four August starts.
Cubs: Jason Hammel (6-5, 3.38 ERA) takes the mound for the Cubs in the series finale on Sunday when the Cubs hope to extend their lead with the National League's second Wild Card spot. The right-hander has not posted a quality start since July 3, having gone fewer than six innings in each start since. First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
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