Cubs shut down by Atlanta's Anderson, skid hits four
In the three previous games played by the Cubs and Braves, the teams combined to produce 17, 17 and 15 runs.
Atlanta scored a few on Tuesday, but the Cubs were shut down cold on a hot night by right-hander Ian Anderson. The Cubs collected just 2 singles and 3 total baserunners in a 5-0 loss.
A few days ago, the Cubs had won four in a row and the bats were starting to perk up. Just as quickly, they've lost four straight and reverted to an old habit of getting stoned by good pitchers. This was the second time in three games the Cubs have been shut out.
"I think if anything, we all feel fortunate that we're not 10 games out of first place right now," right fielder Jason Heyward said. "That's a positive. And also we all understand how quickly these things can change in two days, three days with the way our division is."
Jake Marisnick got the only hit against Anderson and Nico Hoerner grounded one up the middle for the second hit in the top of the ninth. According to the Braves, Anderson, 22, is the only pitcher since 1920 to have three starts of at least 6 innings and allow no more than 1 hit in the course of his first 11 games in the majors.
"I think the right-on-right change, we don't think we've seen many of those," Cubs manager David Ross said of Anderson. "He was dropping both secondary pitches in for strikes, the breaking ball first pitch to a lot of guys. I thought the change-up was the difference-maker, especially to righties. He threw it for strikes and it looked like fastball right out of hand to a lot of the guys from my vantage point."
The Cubs needed some length from starting pitcher Trevor Williams after Zach Davies didn't make it through four innings on Monday. Williams was pretty good, but left after giving up 2 runs in the fifth inning.
He worked out of a jam in the second by getting Atlanta slugger Ronald Acuna Jr. on a foul pop up to first with the bases loaded. But when Acuna came to the plate for a third time, he blasted a home run to left for the first run of the game.
Ross said he might have left Williams return for the sixth inning, but he was scheduled to lead off the top of the sixth, and left for a pinch-hitter.
"I feel it's coming together," Williams said. "We're trending upward with delivery, with mechanics, pitch-calling, pitch tunneling, sequencing. I think we're headed in the right direction. This was the fifth start. Regular season I'm going to have 27 more. As we continued to trend upward I think were' going to be moving in the right direction."
For the second time in three days, a Cubs reliever gave up a big inning, allowing the opponent to blow open a close game. On Tuesday, it was Brandon Workman with a 3-run eighth inning, running his season ERA to 6.75.
It's been tough to tell if the Cubs bullpen is overworked or just ineffective in spots. A four-game losing streak means no chances to use closer Craig Kimbrel, who has yet to allow a run this season.
"Still trying to figure out when we're behind in games, guys that we can use to keep it right there," Ross said. "I think we've got some guys that have built some trust when we're tied or ahead and you try to stay away from those guys and not overuse them when you are down.
"We definitely have to be better and keep the game closer when the guys battle all game and keep it right there so we can have some sort of rally later in games."
Javy Baez (hamstring) and Kris Bryant (sore biceps) both missed the game, and it's not clear when they'll be ready to return.