ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves finished off a sweep of the Chicago Cubs Thursday night in dominant fashion with a 9-4 win behind a stellar outing from Max Fried and a perfect night from Nick Markakis.
After a tough series in Philadelphia, the Braves exorcised all of their opening weekend demons as they fought back to .500 with their win Thursday night. Taking the mound was Fried, a 25-year-old lefty making just his 10th career start.
For the first four innings, the Braves found themselves in quite the pitcher’s duel as Markakis would notch the only hit of the game until the bottom of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth the Braves would manufacture a run with three straight singles from Markakis, Ozzie Albies and Brian McCann. Atlanta then really opened the flood gates in the fifth as the Cubs’ bullpen continued to struggle finding the strike zone.
Following a leadoff double from Ender Inciarte, the Cubs walked three straight batters and allowed Inciarte to score on a wild pitch. Markakis would continue to stay hot as he hit a bases-clearing double that put the Braves up 5-0. The Braves weren’t done just yet in the fifth as Dansby Swanson would continue to stay hot, tacking on another run with a RBI single.
While the Braves had no problem scoring runs, the real story of the night was Fried. He carried a perfect game into the sixth before he gave up a 2-out weak single to Mark Zagunis. All night Fried showed perfect command of his pitches, spotting 94 mile-per-hour fastballs on the corner, and dazzling hitters with his elite curveball.
Zagunis would be the only baserunner Fried allowed all night as he tossed six shutout innings only allowing one hit and striking out five.
The Braves continued to add on to their sizable lead with runs coming from a McCann sacrifice fly in the seventh and a 2-run double in the eighth. The struggling bullpen showed up again, though, as Chad Sobotka came in and gave up three runs on back-to-back homers from Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez.
Recently activated A.J. Minter quickly spelled Sobotka, and in his first appearance of the season, Minter walked the first two batters he faced before getting the final two outs of the game to seal the win.
Nick Markakis was a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate including three doubles and five RBIs. It was part of a stellar 8-for-12 series at the plate. McCann also contributed with two RBIs and Dansby Swanson got his sixth RBI of the year.
Markakis shined all series, going 8 for 12 with five RBIs. Ozzie Albies would also shine going 8 for 13 in the series with a homerun and two RBIs.
The Braves’ offense came to life scoring 23 runs in the series compared to just 11 in their opening series against the Phillies. That surely helped offset the bullpen’s woes still struggled in this series, which has consistently failed to support Atlanta’s solid starting pitching. In the three games against the Cubs, Braves starters gave up only one run in 15 innings of work compared to the bullpen’s seven runs in 13 innings.
The Braves will start a weekend series Friday night at 7:20 p.m. at SunTrust Park with the struggling Miami Marlins (2-5). Kevin Gausman, Kyle Wright and Sean Newcomb were slated to pitch the trio of games.
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