Olson, Braves top Cubs, who fall out of final NL wild card spot
The Chicago Cubs couldn’t get out of Atlanta fast enough Thursday night.
Unlike the previous two nights, the Braves chose to get out to an early lead and never let go of it, holding back a late Cubs rally in a 5-3 triumph, the Braves’ 103rd win of the year. The win also clinched home-field advantage for the Braves throughout the entire postseason.
And while the Braves were celebrating a sweep, the Cubs were heading to Milwaukee to face their National League Central rival and newly annointed champion Brewers, recovering from a three-game sweep that saw them fall out of the third and final wild card spot behind the Miami Marlins, who led the New York Mets, 2-1, in the ninth inning when the game was delayed, then postponed due to the torrential downpours that fell on Citi Field. That game, if needed, will be finished up Monday afternoon.
The Marlins won the regular-season series over the Cubs and own the tie-breaker if they hold a half-game lead over the Cubs like they do now.
As for Thursday night’s game at Truist Park, it belonged to Braves first baseman Matt Olson, who if not for teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. would be nearly a shoo-in to win the National League Most Valuable Player award. After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead on a fielder’s choice grounder by Ian Happ that saw Mike Tauchman dance around Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud to score, Olson connected for a line-drive, two-run home run just inside the right-field foul pole to give the Braves a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first.
For Olson, it was his 54th home run, which continued to add on to his franchise record total, but the RBIs were his 135th and 136th of the season, breaking the record set by Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews in 1953.
Said Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer of the Braves, “Right now, they are the best team. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. And to beat them over the long haul, you’ve got to be better than that. And that’s a good standard to have.”
The Braves added to their lead on an RBI double from Michael Harris II and an RBI single by Acuna in the second off starter Marcus Stroman (10-9), who surrendered four runs (two earned) in two innings. The final Cubs run came via Javier Assad’s fielding error off an Eddie Rosario grounder that plated Austin Riley.
Seiya Suzuki, whose two-run error in the first game of the three-game series set the tone for the bad three days, tried to rally the Cubs back by himself. He hit an RBI double in the sixth inning to score Happ. Then Suzuki singled home Nico Hoerner in the eighth inning to cut the lead to two runs.
But while Suzuki had three hits on his own, the rest of the Cubs had three total. And with Cody Bellinger on second and Suzuki on first, Dansby Swanson grouned into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat … and just about end the Cubs’ hopes for a win.
Raisel Iglesias got a strikeout and two groundouts in the ninth to record his 32nd save of the season.
Going into the final series at American Family Field, the Cubs and Brewers have split their 10 games this season. The series begins Friday at 7:10 p.m. as Kyle Hendricks (6-8) takes the ball for the Cubs against Brewers starter Colin Rea (6-6).
The Marlins, meanwhile, open a three-game closing regular series at Pittsburgh against the Pirates. No starting pitcher has been announced for either team.
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