The fifth inning was what decided the game, with all four runs coming in the top half. Aníbal Sánchez kept the Cubs quiet through six innings and the Braves bullpen held on, giving the Cubs their third shutout on offense on the young season.
What You Need to Know: Both teams were slow out the gate, with Sánchez and Yu Darvish dueling off in a pitcher’s match. Darvish and the Cubs were the first to blink though, as the Braves put together a four-run inning, stringing together a double, single, double, home run, walk, single, and walk, ending Darvish’s day after 4 1/3 innings.
Excluding when they loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning, the Cubs never really threatened throughout the whole contest. Aníbal Sánchez did not pitch like 2014-2017 Aníbal Sánchez, shooting off six scoreless innings with six strikeouts, allowing only five baserunners.
The bullpen kept the game within striking distance for the Cubs, getting scoreless outings from Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards, and Brandon Morrow. The bad news was that the Braves bullpen did just the same, with Sam Freeman, AJ Minter, and former Cub Arodys Vizcaíno all tossing up zeros.
The ninth inning was anti-climatic, as a Kris Bryant lineout, Willson Contreras groundout, and Kyle Schwarber lineout made things quick and easy.
Next Level: It was pretty much the Aníbal Sánchez show today, keeping the Cubs in check. The whole game he was getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the zone, inducing whiffs and weak contact. He held the Cubs to an average exit velocity of 83.7 MPH, the sixth lowest mark in a start by him since the beginning of last year.
You could say that Yu Darvish didn’t receive the fortune that Sánchez had, as he was even better, owning an exit velocity against of 77.1 MPH, after allowing averages of 85.9 MPH and 94.9 MPH in first two starts. Damage was done in the fifth inning though, allowing three batted balls that had an exit velocity greater than 100 MPH.
Brandon Morrow’s third appearance in a Cubs uniform was darn impressive. He was consistently sitting 97-98 MPH. He induced two outs with the sinker and struck out Dansby Swanson looking on a 98 MPH heater.
Top Play (WPA): On a day when the Cubs offense sputtered, the top play was Darvish’s strikeout of Freddie Freeman with one out and Albies on third base (+.079). That’s a sign of a poorly played game, as Albies would score on a wild pitch with more damage to come.
Bottom Play (WPA): The Braves had already scratched a run off Yu Darvish and were looking to get more with two runners on. With Tucker at the plate, Darvish hung a slider that was subsequently ambushed and crushed into right field (-.234), quadrupling the Braves lead.
Up Next: 1:20 CT gametime tomorrow. The Cubs will send José Quintana to toe the slab for his third start of the year. The Braves will send opposing lefty Sean Newcomb to make the start, who is coming off a six scoreless innings, nine strikeouts, no walks performance.
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports