The Cubs need some bounces to go their way if they are going to make it into the 2023 playoff tournament.
David Ross’ squad entered the series in Atlanta with high hopes, coming off a sweep of the Rockies at Wrigley Field and in a prime position to punch a ticket to the postseason.
Instead, the Cubs dropped all 3 games to the National League’s best team, punctuated by a 5-3 loss Thursday night in Atlanta.
After blowing late leads against the Braves in the first 2 games of the series, the Cubs’ lead evaporated in the bottom of the 1st inning.
After Mike Tauchman scored on a fielder’s choice in the top of the 1st, Marcus Stroman gave up a 2-run homer in the bottom half of the frame to Matt Olson — his 54th of the season.
The Braves never looked back. They scored 2 more runs in the 2nd inning and another in the 3rd and that was enough to keep the Cubs at bay.
“We obviously didn’t play well enough to win any baseball games,” Dansby Swanson said to the media in Atlanta. “We weren’t able to come through when it mattered. It’s definitely a frustrating series for us.”
Stroman, making his final start of the season, lasted only 2 innings and was charged with 4 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits.
The Cubs originally climbed back into the playoff race thanks to a strong run prevention group led by stellar defense and solid pitching. But the defense has been an issue lately and the team committed 4 errors in the series in Atlanta, including 2 miscues Thursday night that led to 3 runs.
“We’ve gotta play clean baseball,” Ross said. “We’re better when we do that. The pitching and defense has been our signature when we’re having success.”
In New York, the Marlins battled back with a 9th inning rally to take a 2-1 lead over the Mets. The game then went into a rain delay but if it holds up, the Marlins will take a 1-game lead over the Cubs in the race for the final NL Wild Card spot.
The Marlins also hold the tiebreaker over the Cubs.
In his return to Atlanta, Swanson had a tough series at the plate, going for 1-for-10 with a walk and a hit by pitch. The Cubs managed 6 hits as a team Thursday night with Seiya Suzuki (3 hits, 2 RBI) leading the way.
The Cubs are 6-13 in their last 19 games. They begin a 3-game series with the Brewer in Milwaukee Friday to close out the regular season.
“You have no choice [but to move past it],” Happ told reporters. “That what you gotta do. You play this game as hard as you can and see where it shakes out. It doesn’t change the mentality that we have to go play our best brand of baseball tomorrow.”