Jake Arrieta began a new winning streak on Saturday with some help from his teammates. Miguel Montero hit a three-run homer, Kris Bryant added a two-run shot and Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo each hit solo homers to back Arrieta and power the Cubs to an 8-2 victory over the Braves at Turner Field.
“It’s an uphill battle anyway, and then it’s really an uphill battle when you get behind a guy like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I thought we got out of that second and third with nobody out [in the third inning], and I’m thinking, ‘Well, you never know,’ because things might happen good. But it kind of got away from us a little bit, and then a little bit is a whole lot with him.”
Arrieta was coming off his first loss after 20 consecutive winning decisions, and in that defeat, the right-hander struck out 12 over five innings. On Saturday, he fanned three over seven frames, became the National League’s second 10-game winner, and his ERA bumped up to 1.86. Arrieta also tied a career high with two hits of his own and scored from first on Dexter Fowler’s double in the sixth.
“I wanted to give my team a quality outing,” Arrieta said. “I think the streak, whatever streak it was, it’s over. We’ll start a new one.”
Heyward, Rizzo and Montero connected against Braves starter Matt Wisler, who served up five runs over four innings. It marked the fourth time this season Chicago has hit at least four home runs, and the Cubs have 22 wins by five or more runs, tops in the Majors.
It was tough for the Braves to rally after the Cubs scored four runs in the fourth, opening a 5-0 lead.
“They’re not a home run-hitting team, but they are definitely pesky, I’ll tell you that,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Braves. “They do make contact. I thought Miggy’s homer put a mark on them [in the fourth].”
On Friday, Heyward struck out a season-high three times. On Saturday, Heyward launched a 1-1 fastball in the first inning to right for his fourth home run. However, the Atlanta native and former Brave missed another RBI opportunity in the third when he came up with two on and one out. This time, Wisler struck him out.
The solo home run Wisler surrendered to Heyward in the first put the right-hander in an early hole, but his struggles peaked in the Cubs’ four-run fourth. Wisler allowed four straight hits — two singles sandwiched in between two home runs — to open the frame, giving Chicago a 5-0 lead. He has allowed 16 hits, 13 runs and six homers in his past two outings.
“I’ve got to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark right now,” Wisler said. “I’ve got to do a better job executing pitches. They beat me on the ones I hang. They’re getting to [them] and hitting them out of the park, so I’ve got to figure out a way to get the ball back down in the zone and execute my offspeed pitches the way I’m supposed to.”
Rizzo, scratched on Friday because of tightness in his back, hit the first pitch from Wisler in the fourth to right for his 14th home run and 44th RBI. Ben Zobrist and Chris Coghlan followed with singles to set up Montero’s homer. For Coghlan, it was his first hit in his first start since being reacquired from the Athletics on Thursday.
Ender Inciarte’s RBI triple in the seventh cut the Cubs’ lead to 8-2 and marked the Braves’ fourth hit of the game off Arrieta. Atlanta’s center fielder has tripled three times this month after hitting none through his first 25 games of the season.
With his two-run homer in the fifth, Bryant has 45 RBIs for the season, second most in the National League, while Rizzo is third with 44. The Cubs have not had multiple players reach 50 RBIs by the All-Star break since 2008 when Aramis Ramirez (66), Derrek Lee (56), Geovany Soto (56) and Mark DeRosa (50) did so.
Jon Lester closes the series against the Braves on Sunday. The lefty is coming off a strong outing in which he threw eight scoreless innings against the Phillies. He’s 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. First pitch will be at 12:35 p.m. CT from Turner Field. Atlanta will counter with John Gant, who will make his first Major League start in place of Williams Perez. In seven appearances out of the bullpen, Gant has held right-handed hitters to a .217 batting average while allowing left-handed batters to hit .435 against him. Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast of the game on the Braves Radio Network beginning with the pregame show at noon.