Cubs

Jason Hammel suffers second loss of season as Cubs fall to Braves

Jason Hammel suffers second loss of season as Cubs fall to Braves

ATLANTA (AP) — Bud Norris is determined to stay in Atlanta's rotation.

He made a good case with a dominant win over baseball's best team.

Norris pitched seven strong innings, Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers hit home runs and the Atlanta Braves beat Jason Hammel and the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Friday night.

Making his second start since returning to the rotation, Norris (2-7) allowed one run on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts. He gave up only one hit in his last four innings.

The quality start was no surprise to Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

"I mean, the guy just pitches really well whenever I've seen him," Maddon said. "I've not seen him pitch poorly, ever, I don't think. He should actually paste my picture underneath the bill of his hat."

Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said Norris "was great" and will receive at least one more start.

Norris lost his spot in the rotation in late April. He made 12 relief appearances before returning to a starting role when Mike Foltynewicz was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 4 with right elbow soreness.

Norris said he used his time in the bullpen to sharpen his mechanics.

"I'm happy with the time I spent down there to help the club, but obviously this is where I want to be and this is where I feel I can help the most," Norris said.

Garcia and Flowers gave the weak-hitting Braves back-to-back homers for the first time this season. Garcia's homer off Hammel (7-2) with one out in the second inning barely cleared the center-field wall. Flowers followed with a homer high over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead.

The two homers lifted the Braves' meager total to 25, easily the fewest in the majors.

The Cubs were without first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was removed from the lineup due to tightness in his back. Manager Joe Maddon said Rizzo's status is "absolutely day to day."

Jim Johnson pitched a perfect eighth. Arodys Vizcaino got the final three outs, two on strikeouts, for his eighth save.

Albert Almora Jr. doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Dexter Fowler's groundout in the third inning for the Cubs' only run.

Hammel allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast

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