The Atlanta Braves came into this series having averaged seven runs a game for two weeks.
The Chicago Cubs came into this series having an average of nine runs a game allowed over a 10-game span.
So what happens? Of course, because baseball, the Cubs pitching staff limits the Braves to three total runs over 18 innings on two gorgeous afternoons at Wrigley Field.
Justin Steele threw five solid innings and the bullpen held on for a 6-3 win over the Braves Saturday.
Before Willson Contreras’ first at-bat, the brothers Contreras shared a hug. It’s the first time they’ve played against each other in the major leagues [VIDEO].
Then the Cubs got started right away on offense, with Christopher Morel singing on the first pitch from Kyle Wright. Willson Contreras singled Morel to third and as Ian Happ struck out for the second out of the inning, Willson took second uncontested.
That turned out to be important, because Jonathan Villar thus drove in two runs, instead of one, with this hit [VIDEO].
In the top of the second, the Cubs turned a weird double play. Willson’s brother William Contreras singled and then one out later Adam Duvall blooped a ball beyond first base [VIDEO].
The ball dropped untouched, and so Alfonso Rivas threw to second for a force out. But Duvall was then ruled out for rounding first and coming back, after which Willson Contreras tagged him out.
The Cubs put another run on the board in the second. Rivas singled and advanced to second on a single by Andrelton Simmons (yes, really!). One out later, Willson drove in Rivas [VIDEO].
Steele gave up a couple of hits in the third, but got out of the inning, and then got another double play in the fourth, making 13 straight shutout innings for Cubs pitching against one of the better offenses in the league.
The Cubs had made it 4-0 in the third. Ian Happ led off with a double and two outs later, a bloop to left by Jason Heyward scored him [VIDEO].
Steele got touched up for a pair of runs in the fifth, including a homer by Duvall, but overall this was a really good outing. He also got in some trouble with walks after the homer, but limited the damage to a sac fly and another fly ball that ended the inning.
The Cubs made it 5-2 in the sixth. Rivas put down a really pretty bunt for a hit and advanced to third on Simmons’ second hit of the day (yes, I saw it in person, it really happened). Morel hit into a double play, scoring a run [VIDEO].
Rowan Wick and Scott Effross combined for three shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out five. That’s especially good for Wick, who has struggled lately. A ball hit by Matt Olson off Wick would likely have been out of the yard on most days, but the wind pushed it back and Morel made a diving catch [VIDEO].
Look at the xBA (expected batting average) and exit velocity on that one:
— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) June 18, 2022
Most days, that’s a home run at Wrigley. So, thank you, northeast wind!
Rafael Ortega gave the Cubs a 6-2 lead in the last of the seventh [VIDEO].
That’s about the only way a hitter could get a ball out of the yard with a strong wind blowing in. Check out the launch angle:
Rafael Ortega homers (3): fly ball to RF (solo)
Hit: 382ft, 108.4mph, 23°
Pitch: 88.8mph Cutter (RHP Collin McHugh, 2)
— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) June 18, 2022
With David Robertson having thrown 27 pitches Friday, and the game not being in a save situation, David Ross called on Chris Martin to finish things off. A bloop to short left dropped between three Cubs fielders — call it, please! — and that led to a Braves run making it 6-3. Martin recorded the final out on a line drive to left by Dansby Swanson [VIDEO].
And so, the Cubs had another well-played win in front of the largest announced Wrigley crowd (40,755) since September 1, 2019 (40,914 vs. the Brewers). The complaint department is definitely closed after this one.
And, here’s Willson Contreras talking about playing against his younger brother for the first time:
The Cubs will go for a very unlikely sweep — they haven’t swept a series since they swept the Pirates at Wrigley last September! —Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Ian Anderson gets the call for Atlanta. Game time is again 1:20 pm CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.