For the first four innings of the Chicago Cubs game against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, Cubs’ starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was over-powering the Braves’ lineup. Samardzija had struck out 10 batters in the first four innings while pitching with a 1-0 lead. Samardzija allowed a run in the fifth inning but collected two more strikeouts to put his total at 12 strikeouts after five innings. Then, Samardzija came back down to earth. Samardzija allowed 3 runs in the sixth inning and failed to make it out of the inning. The Braves went on to score another run in the eighth inning on a Dan Uggla home run and defeated the Cubs 5 to 1.
The Pitching: Jeff Samardzija pitched well enough to win on Sunday, though a lack of offensive support and poor defense contributed to the Cubs’ loss on Sunday. Samardzija finished Sunday with a line of 5 and 2/3 innings pitched allowing four runs on 4 hits and issuing 4 walks while striking out 13 Braves’ batters. There were times on Sunday where Samardzija mirrored the same form that Kerry Wood had nearly 15 years ago when he struck out 20 Houston Astros‘ batters. Relievers Michael Bowden and Hector Rondon held the Braves scoreless in their appearances while Hisanori Takahashi allowed a run in his only inning of work.
For the Braves, starting pitcher Tim Hudson matched Samardzija pitch for pitch in the early portions of the game. After allowing a run in the first inning, Hudson went on to keep the Cubs scoreless for the next 5 and 2/3 innings. Hudson finished Sunday with a line of 6 and 2/3 innings pitched allowing 1 run on 3 hits while walking 2 batters and striking out 7. Braves’ relievers Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden closed out the final 2 and a third innings for the victory.
The Offense: In what will likely be a trend for the season, the Chicago Cubs offense struggled again on Sunday. With the exception of a first inning run against Hudson, the Cubs were unable to create any other offense opportunities. Starlin Castro was the lone bright spot for the Cubs on offense as the shortstop went 2 for 4 on Sunday.
For the Braves, shortstop Ramiro Pena continued to have success against Cubs’ pitching. Pena was 2 for 4 on Sunday while driving in 2 runs. Hudson and Uggla drove in the other 2 runs for the Braves.
- This series highlighted what will likely be the main issue for the Cubs this season. That issue is going to be run production. Jeff Samardzija pitched well on Sunday, and even with the four runs allowed, Samardzija would have benefited from run support and improved defensive play. The defense will likely be improved when second baseman Darwin Barney returns from injury, but the offense will likely be a concern for the entire season.
- Before the game on Sunday, Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum announced that Carlos Marmol will no longer serve as the team’s closer. Kyuji Fujikawa will now serve as the team’s closer while Marmol will serve as a middle reliever.