CHICAGO -- Kristopher Bryant added another milestone Thursday night. Bryant smacked a two-run homer into the wind, his 25th of the year, to back Kyle Hendricks and lead the Cubs to their fourth straight win, a 6-2 victory over the Braves. The reigning National League Most Valuable Player is the
CHICAGO -- Kristopher Bryant added another milestone Thursday night. Bryant smacked a two-run homer into the wind, his 25th of the year, to back Kyle Hendricks and lead the Cubs to their fourth straight win, a 6-2 victory over the Braves. The reigning National League Most Valuable Player is the first player in franchise history and the 12th in the Majors to hit 25 or more home runs in each of his first three seasons.
"It's pretty crazy when you think of the history of this organization, to be the first to do that -- it's really cool, an honor and very humbling," Bryant said.
Jonathan Jay had four hits, including a triple in the eighth, to help the Cubs improve to a season-high 13 games over .500 and maintain a 3 1/2-game NL Central lead over the Brewers, who beat the Nationals on Thursday night.
Bryant connected with one on and one out in the sixth inning against Jason Motte, hitting an 0-2 fastball into the left-field bleachers despite a 17-mph northeast wind.
"He's been playing through all kinds of nagging injuries," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant, who has dealt with ankle, wrist and hand injuries this season. "Give him credit. He's an everyday player and he comes to play. Even if there's no hits on a particular day, there's been good defense, great base running, all the other stuff he can do to help you win a baseball game. That ball was really killed [for his homer] -- that wind was firm."
Hendricks scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings, and was lifted after serving up pinch-hitter Lane Adams' home run with two outs in the seventh. The right-hander, who allowed two runs (one unearned), has given up 12 earned runs over 46 2/3 innings since the All-Star break for a 2.31 ERA.
The Cubs gave Hendricks a cushion in the first when Jay singled, reached third on Bryant's ground-rule double and scored on Anthony Rizzo's groundout for his 97th RBI. Javier Baez added an RBI single to open a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs were coming off a sweep of the Pirates, which they capped with a 17-3 win Wednesday. They have scored 15 or more runs in four games since the All-Star break, but were 0-4 the next day until Thursday's win. Atlanta rookie left-hander Sean Newcomb struck out seven over five innings but took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned).
"He bent, but didn't break," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I looked up there and the ball-strike ratio was better than it was seeming during the game. Most of the hits were with two strikes and on offspeed pitches. They didn't do much with his fastball. He couldn't bury a breaking ball when he needed to and hung a changeup. With that being said, we were right there in the game."
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Just missed: The Braves threatened in the eighth against C.J. Edwards as Ozzie Albies singled and two outs later, Nick Markakis walked. Kurt Suzuki, who has 15 home runs, could've tied the game with No. 16, but Edwards got him to fly out to left and end the inning.
Substitute starter: To account for the proposed trade to the Angels that Brandon Phillips eventually accepted, Albies was a late add to the Braves' lineup and he delivered in the fifth. Dansby Swanson reached on a fielding error by second baseman Benjamin Zobrist, who couldn't get a glove on the ball, and then moved up on a sacrifice by Newcomb and a groundout by Ender Inciarte before scoring on Albies' single to center. Albert Almora Jr. ended the inning with a running catch of Freddie Freeman's fly ball in center.
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"There were some balls that were crushed [by both teams] that got beat down [by the wind]," Snitker said. "The big play was Freddie's ball. That kid got a great jump and made a really nice play."
"Every game, I look back and there are two or three moments where things start to kind of speed up, or I give up things like broken-bat hits or balls that just kind of squeak through the infield. I've just got to kind of put it behind me and get the next guy." -- Newcomb
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Rizzo gave Hendricks a 1-0 lead in the first when a run scored on his groundout. Rizzo had 30 RBIs in August and is the first Cubs player to reach that figure in the month since Sammy Sosa (36) in August 2001.
Hendricks walked Albies with one out in the first, but was able to pick him off, his fifth pickoff of the season, which is tied for the most in the Majors by a right-hander.
"The pickoff was large," Maddon said. "That's a really big play right there. That early in the game, it sets an entirely different tone for us and them because [Hendricks] was searching at that point."
Maddon said Hendricks' patience and footwork helps him make the play.
"He's one of those guys who's able to hold the ball and throw accurately to first base with quick feet," Maddon said. "It might sound simple, but it's not. It's hard to get pitchers to hold the baseball sometimes."
Said Hendricks: "It's a big pickoff for sure, especially today because of how I was feeling in the beginning. I knew I was off -- two terrible walks early. That was a big call by [bench coach Davey Martinez]. He's had good timing. It's definitely a huge lift, especially when you're not feeling great."
Braves:Mike Foltynewicz, who grew up about 90 miles from Wrigley Field, will take the mound in Friday's 2:20 p.m. ET matchup. The right-hander had allowed at least six runs in three straight starts before limiting the Rockies to one run over five innings Sunday.
Cubs:John Lackey will open September on Friday in Game 2 of this four-game series at 1:20 p.m. CT. He went 2-1 with a 5.47 ERA in five August starts and is coming off a loss to the Phillies when he gave up four earned runs over five innings. The right-hander beat the Braves on July 18, giving up one run over five innings.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.