Ynoa bitten by home runs in loss to Cubs

April 18th, 2021

After Atlanta's impressive combined effort in Friday's win at Wrigley Field, and the Braves’ bullpen couldn’t find a way to slow down the Cubs’ bats in a 13-4 loss on Saturday.

Ynoa started the game right where he left off in his 10-strikeout performance against the Marlins on Monday with a strikeout of Cubs leadoff man Ian Happ. However, that would be the only time that Atlanta would have the momentum. In the next at-bat, on a 1-0 pitch, Willson Contreras punished an 84 mph slider to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead with a home run to center field.

“He didn’t get his changeup going, and a two-pitch pitcher as a starter they can narrow you down. Didn’t matter how hard he was throwing,” said manager Brian Snitker. “He really didn’t get anything established. He threw a couple of good changeups, [but] the slider, I don’t think it had the bite that it did the last couple times, either.”

After Saturday’s performance, it’s almost like these teams switched places. Coming into the game, the Braves were in second place in the Majors with 20 home runs, while Chicago lagged behind with 14. The Cubs were in last place with a .166 batting average on the season. However, Chicago tallied six homers and 14 hits in the game. Three of those home runs came off Ynoa.

“It's still a really good lineup,” said Snitker. “It's not hitting on all cylinders early. We're not either, quite honestly. They got a bunch of guys over there that have done it before.”

After allowing six runs over four-plus innings, Ynoa was replaced on the mound by Jesse Biddle. However, the results were the same. Biddle managed one out while giving up two hits and four runs -- including a two-run homer to Kris Bryant. Then Jacob Webb got his shot at damage control but gave up home runs to David Bote and a second to Bryant to give Chicago a 13-1 lead.

“It’s kind of been a rough go for [the Cubs] starting out, too. They’re capable [enough] that you better make pitches, because they're the kind of team that will hurt you if you don’t,” said Snitker.

Sean Kazmar Jr. pinch-hit for Ynoa in the top of the fifth, and despite grounding into a double play, his first big league plate appearance in 12 years was just as Snitker said it would be: movie-worthy. Kazmar is a true testament to dedication; it has been 4,591 days since Kazmar’s most recent big league plate appearance, which came on Sept. 21, 2008.

Atlanta’s lack of offense was in part due to the Braves being short-handed with Ozzie Albies sidelined with right calf soreness and with Christian Pache on the injured list. However, Ronald Acuña Jr. improved his hit streak to nine games with a line-drive single into left field in the sixth inning.

In the Braves’ first 15 games of the season Acuña has scored 20 total runs and led the National League with 14 extra-base hits. Acuña is on pace for a historic season, and if Atlanta is able to get some more consistent productivity out of its lineup, the Braves will be a scary matchup going forward.

“Absolutely, we could turn the tables at any point in time,” said Snitker. “Our guys are capable of that and just [had] kind of a rough day.”

Every player in the Cubs’ starting lineup reached base safely, including pitcher Trevor Williams. Williams kept Acuña and the Braves at bay, allowing just four hits and one run during his five-plus-inning outing.