Seiya Suzuki misses flyball, helps complete Braves’ stunning win over Cubs
Leading 6-0 in the sixth inning against the team with the best record in baseball on their home field, things were looking up for the Chicago Cubs. Twelve outs to go and they would keep the Miami Marlins at bay in the race for the third and final National League Wild Card spot.
But that’s when the collapse started. It opened up with a solo home run by Kevin Pillar. It ended in the most stunning of ways: Seiya Suzuki misjudging a flyball to him in right field off the bat of Sean Murphy, leading to two runs scoring and finishing out the unbelievable 7-6 Atlanta Braves victory over the Cubs.
If the Cubs miss out on the postseason, they will point to “The Flyball Miscue Heard Throughout Wrigleyville” and look at it as more damaging than the Brant Brown error in 1998 that nearly cost the Cubs a postseason berth.
In spite of the stunning defeat, Cubs manager David Ross said Seiya Suzuki is still his and the team’s guy.
“Seiya’s been carrying us for over a month and a half offensively,” he said. “He’s put us on our back.”
There was one bit of business taken care of in this defeat: The Milwaukee Brewers officially won the National League Central crown, even though they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1. And now with the last wild card as the major focus, the Cubs lost half a game to the Marlins, who had their game postponed at Citi Field against the New York Mets due to the weather. The teams will make it up in a doubleheader starting at 3:10 p.m. this afternoon. The Marlins are half a game behind the Cubs for that final wild card.
All looked rosy at Truist Park as the Cubs were building momentum as the game went along. Yan Gomes and Miles Mastrobuoni had RBI singles in a two-run second inning, then Seiya Suzuki tripled to center field to score two more runs in the third. Cody Bellinger had an RBI single in the fifth and Ian Happ’s RBI single in the sixth made it 6-0.
Game over, right? But the Cubs’ suspect bullpen of late was about to take over the game.
Oh, so, too, were the Braves, who won their 101st game of the season. Pillar started the rally with a home run in the bottom of the sixth off starter Justin Steele. The home run was the 300th hit by the Braves this year, making them the third team in Major League history to hit 300 or more home runs in a season, joining the 2019 Minnesota Twins with 307 home runs and the 2019 New York Yankees, who hit 306 that year.
But it got worse: Matt Olson singled home Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna doubled home Austin Riley to make it 6-3 in the sixth.
With Murphy on in the seventh, Ronald Acuna Jr. whacked his 41st home run of the year, an opposite-field shot to right field off reliever Javier Assad to make it 6-5.
Drew Smyly (11-10) started the bottm of the eighth for the Cubs by walking Olson. After two wild pitches moved Olson to third, Orlando Arcia walked. Smyly got the second out of the inning when he struck out Michael Harris II, but pinch-runner Forrest Wall stole second. That brought up Murphy.
Murphy hit what looked like an innocent flyball out to Seiya Suzuki to end the inning, but he looked as if he fought the Truist Park lights and whiffed at catching the ball. Bellinger, playing center field, quickly backed the play up, but by then, both Olson and Wall scored the tying and go-ahead runs.
Bellinger singled to center with one out against Braves closer Raisel Iglesias. But looking for redemption, Seiya Suzuki struck out and former Braves star shortstop Dansby Swanson struck out to end it for Iglesias’ 31st save of the year.
“Obviously these games are really, really important for us,” Seiya Suzuki said through his interpreter, Toy Matsushita. “And the fact that we dropped it is not the best result that we want right now at this point in the season.”
Brad Hand, one of four relievers who held the Cubs to one run, improved to 5-2 with the victory.
The Cubs look to bounce back on Wednesday against the Braves in the second game of the three-game set as Jameson Taillon (8-10) faces off with Atlanta’s Darius Vines (1-0).
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