Cubs blow not one, not two, but three leads in losing to Braves
A franchise that has infamy like black cats, billy goats and Brant Brown blown catches lingering its Wrigley Field bowels, the 2023 Chicago Cubs are trying hard to add another chapter to it.
That was evidenced Wednesday night when the Cubs blew not one, not two, but three leads at Truist Field and lost to the Atlanta Braves, 6-5, in 10 innings on a record-setting night for Braves star and most likely National League Most Valuable Player Ronald Acuna Jr.
Acuna scored the winning run in the two-run bottom of the 10th inning when Ozzie Albies singled to right field against reliever Daniel Palencia (5-3). Right fielder Seiya Suzuki’s throw to the plate was not in time to get Acuna and the Braves not only won the game, but clinched the home-field advantage throughout the National League postseason.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ fall fade continued as they blew another late lead this month and slipped into a tie for the final National League wild card spot when the Miami Marlins split a doubleheader at Citi Field against the New York Mets. Both the Cubs and Marlins sit at 82-76 with four games left for both teams. The Marlins hold the tiebreaker on the Cubs because they won the regular-season series with them.
A night after Suzuki’s diastrous flyball error gave the Braves the lead and eventual win, the Cubs held a 3-1 lead thanks to solo home runs from Mike Tauchman, his eighth of the year, and Ian Happ, his 20th of the year.
But like Dracula, these Braves (102-56) are hard to kill. They cut the lead to 3-2 in the seventh on a Nico Hoerner error off a Marcell Ozuna grounder scored Austin Riley. In the eighth, Albies, who was 3-for-5 with a solo home run, his 33rd of the year, tied the game up with a single that brought home Acuna to make it 3-3.
The Cubs went ahead, 4-3, in the top of the ninth when Yan Gomes singled home Dansby Swanson, who has had a warm homecoming with the Braves fan. But Mark Leiter Jr. could not nail the victory down as Ozuna pummeled a 3-0 pitch over the left field fence to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
With Tauchman starting at second base in extra innings, the 10th inning, Hoerner moved the runner up to third with a flyout, then Happ lofted a sacrifice fly to Michael Harris II in center field to plate Tauchman, giving the Cubs the one-run lead.
Kevin Pillar started the 10th on second and moved to third on an Orlando Arcia groundout. Acuna singled to right field of Palencia to bring in Pillar with yet another tying run.
That’s when Acuna made history by stealing second base. It was his 70th stolen base of the season — the first player to steal 70 bases in a season since Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009 — and with his 41 home runs became the first 40/70 player in league history.
After a brief delay for Acuna to pull second base out of its place and celebrate the moment, Albies sent the fans home with a single to right to score Acuna.
Happ and Cody Bellinger each had two hits for the Cubs, who will attempt to salvage the final game of the three-game set at 6:20 p.m. when Marcus Stroman (10-8) tries to shut down the powerful Braves lineup against starter A.J. Smith-Shawver (1-0).
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