Coming into the weekend series against the Cubs, the Braves had a head full of steam after sweeping the Marlins before heading home to Turner Field to celebrate Bobby Cox’ time with the organization by retiring his jersey adorned with no. 6.
After the ceremony for Cox was over, the Braves began the series in impressive fashion, pounding Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano, so much that the fiery right-hander contemplated retiring before being suspended from the club for 30 days.
Dan Uggla got things started in the bottom of the 2nd when he extended his hitting streak to 32 games with a solo shot before Jose Constanza’s sacrifice scored Chipper Jones, giving the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
The Cubs put a run on the board in the top of the 3rd before the Braves offense flexed its muscle.
Chipper hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the 3rd, putting the Braves up 5-1, before Constanza’s liner in the 4th just cleared the wall in left, making it a five-run game. In the 5th, Freddie Freeman continued his strong rookie season with a solo shot to center before Uggla hit his second homer of the game in the next at bat, giving the Braves an 8-1 lead. Chippers homer was his 1,000th extra-base hit of his career.
Braves starter Mike Minor did not need much help after the 3rd inning, getting out of the first with a double play, and leaving a runner stranded at third in the 2nd, giving up three runs on the day over 5 2/3 innings.
It was all downhill for Zambrano after that, as he threw two consecutive inside pitches to Chipper, prompting the home plate umpire to toss the Cubs starter from the game, knowing his temper would not remain calm for long.
The Cubs added two more in the 6th before the Braves padded the lead even more, when David Ross scored on Brooks Conrad’s single and Constanza scored on Michael Bourn’s sac fly. Both Bourn and Constanza were making their home debuts Friday night.
With the Braves already up 10-3, the Cubs added a run in the 9th off recent callup Anthony Varvaro, but it was too little, too late.
Minor allowed the 3 runs on 9 hits, striking out 6 and walking just one while notching his second win on the year. Cristian Martinez, Arodys Vizcaino and Varvaro all combined to pitch the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing a run on 2 hits to finish the game.
Saturday’s contest did not prove to be as fortunate for Atlanta.
The Cubs got to Braves starter quickly, scoring a run in the top of the 1st before Uggla led off the bottom of the 4th with a solo shot to center, tying the game at 1. Earlier in the game, Uggla extended his streak to 33 with a single in the 1st.
Lowe got into trouble in the 5th with two outs, giving up a two-run double to Carlos Pena before getting a strike out to end the inning. It did not end there, as the Cubs added two more in the 6th, building a 5-1 lead.
The Braves added a run in the bottom half of the 6th when Uggla scored on Alex Gonzalez’s infield single, making it 5-2, but Chicago added three more in the 8th, building an 8-2 lead.
Not giving up, the Braves scored in the 8th when Chipper scored on Constanza’s groundout, and another in the 9th when Martin Prado scored on Chipper’s sacrifice fly, but the game was already in the bag at that point, as the Cubs evened the series with an 8-4 win.
Lowe went 6 innings, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits. He struck out 6 and did not allow a walk, but the 5th and 6th innings proved to be fatefull, as the veteran saw his record drop to 7-11. Cristian Martinez gave up 3 runs on 2 hits in 1 1/3 innings before Varvaro and George Sherrill finished the game for the Braves pitching staff.
With the series evened up, the Braves knew Sunday’s game would prove to be pivotal, especially with the Giants coming in for a four-game set starting Monday.
With Brian McCann back in the lineup, the Braves had high hopes for the finale, and it began well.
Uggla put the Braves on the board first, hitting a broken bat sacrifice to left, scoring Bourn from third to put the Braves up 1-0 before the club added two more in the 2nd.
Bourn’s single to center scored Gonzalez and Prado’s single to left scored Constanza, giving the Braves a 3-0 lead. Not done there, Bourn singled to center, scoring Constanza from third after he stole both second and third base, putting the Braves up 4-0.
But Beachy ran into trouble in the 6th before his day ended, watching the lead shrink slowly, as he was unable to record an out before giving up two runs after his day was done. Scott Linebrink could not hold off the Cubs, who put together five hits in six at-bats before tying the game on a wild pitch by Vizcaino.
The Braves took a brief lead in the 5th when Jason Heyward scored on an error after stealing second, making it a 5-4 game, but Eric O’Flaherty could not lock down the 7th, giving up a two-run homer as the Cubs jumped back out in front, 6-5.
Bourn gave the Braves a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th after he walked and stole second, but Prado fouled out to end the game, as the Cubs took the series with the come-from-behind win.
Beachy finished giving up 2 runs on 6 hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out 8 before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Linebrink did not record an out before handing the ball to Vizcaino. O’Flaherty took the loss, watching his record fall to 1-4 before handing the ball over to Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, who each recorded three strikeouts in their innings of work.
Uggla went hitless in the finale, ending his streak at 33 games. But the biggest thing for the powerful second baseman was watching his batting average go from a measly-.173 to a much more respectable-.231.
Now, the Braves welcome the defending World Champion Giants to town for four games, and the Braves coincidentally hold a four-game lead over those same Giants.