4/6 Braves 4, Cubs 1
Scott Feldman was one pitch away from getting out of a jam Friday but he had thrown too many pitches already. Justin Upton drove in two runs, including one on a solo homer in the first, and Juan Francisco hit a key two-run single in the fifth to lift the Braves to a 4-1 victory over the Cubs on Friday at Turner Field. The Cubs wanted Feldman to be more efficient with his pitches, but he wasn’t.
“He threw a lot of pitches that were uncompetitive pitches,” Dale Sveum said of Friday’s outing. “He was managing to get through a night where he didn’t have much command of anything. He was basically one pitch away from getting out of that [in the fifth]. We didn’t want him to be at 100 pitches, but at that time, it was his game to win or lose. He could keep it at 2-1 or give it up. Unfortunately, Francisco had a good at-bat and ended up blooping one into left field and that was that.”
The Braves had loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth when Feldman walked two batters and hit another. That set up Francisco’s hit, which made it 4-1, and Feldman exited, having thrown 102 pitches over 4 2/3 innings.
“That was the at-bat of the game for me,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “[Francisco] gets bases loaded there with a 3-2 count and battles and battles. He flared one in there to give us a two-run lead and a little wiggle room.”
Feldman was making his first trip to Atlanta, but he had faced Upton before. Upton apparently remembered something. The right-hander fell behind 0-2 with two outs in the first, and then lined the next pitch over the left-field fence for his third home run.
“I had a little trouble with my command tonight and they got into some deep counts and made me throw a lot of pitches,” Feldman said. “That’s a tough lineup there. When you’re behind in the count, you can’t give in and they battled well and made me throw way too many pitches.”
Scott Hairston, starting in right field as part of the Cubs’ lineup against left-handed pitchers, led off the fifth against Mike Minor (1-0) with his first home run to close the gap to 2-1.
The Cubs were happy to no longer be shivering after opening the season in chilly Pittsburgh. But the warmer temps weren’t enough to get the offense going. They began the day with the fewest hits in the National League and lowest team batting average and slugging percentage.
“Nobody’s swinging the bat at all right now,” Sveum said. “Somebody’s going to have to step up and get hot and hopefully it’s the whole team at one team. We don’t have a whole lot going on offensively right now.”
Leadoff man David DeJesus, who didn’t start but got a pinch-hit at-bat, doesn’t have a hit yet. Neither does Luis Valbuena or Brent Lillibridge. Anthony Rizzo has one, and that was his home run on the first pitch he saw on Opening Day. The Cubs have had two hits in a row twice this season — Opening Day and again on Friday.
“It’s too soon to call it struggling,” Hairston said. “We as hitters need to go out and put together good at-bats and I think we’re all capable of doing that.”
– Carrie Muskat