A drenched crowd of 40,201 at Wrigley Field watched the Chicago Cubs take down baseball's top dogs in the Atlanta Braves in a thrilling 8-6 victory. The Cubs evened the series against the Braves after getting shellacked 8-0 the day before, setting up a rubber match Sunday. Just watching the game on Marquee, one could sense how special it was for the riled-up spectators at the park to sing "Go Cubs Go" at a meaningful time again. It just felt different than it had over the past few years.
Despite an entire day of rainy weather, the fans stayed from start to finish and were into the action the entire way. Among all the Cubs fans in their home ballpark were a few thousand Braves fans that made their voices heard quite clearly. It felt like a playoff atmosphere, and the game was even managed like one.
Facing the best in baseball was challenging enough, add the fact that the Cubs were going with a bullpen day on top of that... in rainy weather. Javier Assad was given the start in place of the injured Marcus Stroman, with the hope he could go four or five innings. Assad went 3.2 innings and surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks. He held his own despite the traffic and not going quite four innings. Ross then emptied the tank with Michael Fulmer, Daniel Palencia, Mark Leiter Jr, Julian Merryweather, and Adbert Alzolay.
One of the big moments of the game was in the sixth inning when Palencia struggled with command, walking three straight batters. Ross pulled the plug and went to Leiter Jr, who despite giving up a sac fly and RBI single to Ronald Acuña Jr. struck out Austin Riley with the bases loaded to preserve the lead. Fulmer and Merryweather really pitched well, going a combined 3.1 scoreless innings. In the ninth did not mess around and brought in Alzolay, who did give up a two-run homer to Matt Olson, but still got the final three outs.
Luckily for the pitchers, the lineup delivered. The five-run first featuring home runs from former Brave Dansby Swanson and Jeimer Candelario got the crowd into it early and put pressure on the visitors. Clutch RBI singles from Nick Madrigal and Christopher Morel, along with a solo shot from Ian Happ in the later innings were key to the victory. They stop scoring after the first, then Olson's home run in the ninth is a go-ahead shot.
The Cubs bent and times but did not break. Everyone knew that the five runs in the first was not going to be enough against the potent Braves lineup. We have seen plenty of other Cubs teams crumble in the same scenario they were in today. Even if the Cubs lose this series, it was important to at least not get swept and they showed they can bounce back after getting absolutely dominated the day before.