CHICAGO — During the first 13 games, the Atlanta Braves have found a way to make the most of the depth they have at their disposal.
The Braves have gotten contributions from a variety of sources and haven’t been choosy about who comes through on any given night.
And after Preston Tucker delivered a three-run homer Friday to give the Braves a series-opening victory over the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta has seemingly found a recipe that works for them: win by committee.
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This all comes while the Braves wait for bigger-name talent to arrive — namely highly touted prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. to arrive from the minors and Johan Camargo to come off the disabled list.
But for now, what they have appears to be working just fine.
“When we get a couple more guys up here, our bench is going to be even stronger,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters on Friday. “You’re going to go through injuries in a year and you need those guys to fill in and do a great job. (Ryan Flaherty and Tucker) have been doing a fantastic job for us the first couple weeks. They’re pretty much winning ballgames by themselves out there.”
Tucker’s blast off Yu Darvish broke Friday’s game open and gave Braves starter Anibal Sanchez all the offense he needed. Atlanta will look to keep things rolling Saturday, but rain is expected throughout the day in Chicago.
The Cubs (6-7) have remained as chilly as the April air that has hung over Wrigley Field in Chicago’s first homestand of the year. Chicago dropped to 1-3 at home in Friday’s 4-0 loss to Atlanta when Darvish was roughed up for the second time this year. He surrendered four runs in 4 2/3 innings in which he gave up nine hits and walked four.
As inconsistent as Cubs starters have been this season, Chicago’s offense has struggled to produce. Friday’s loss marked the third time in 13 games the Cubs have been shut out and have only scored one run in their past two games.
The Cubs managed only four hits on Friday, including two by Ian Happ, who replaced Albert Almora Jr. in the leadoff spot after Almora missed the game due to illness. Still, despite the Cubs’ sluggish offensive output, Happ insists the struggles are temporary.
“You look around this room, look at our lineup every day, that’s not going to be an issue,” Happ told reporters after Friday’s loss, according to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald. “I think we’re doing a good job of putting a plan together. We’ve hit some balls hard right at people. I had a few of those games.
“There’s going to come a point where everybody starts clicking at the same time and you’ll see a lot of runs go up.”
Left-hander Sean Newcomb (1-1, 4.35 ERA) will be the next in line to try to keep the Cubs at bay after Sanchez shut them down. Newcomb, who is coming off an impressive outing in which he threw five shutout innings against Colorado, has struggled in his two career starts against the Cubs, going 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA.
The Cubs will counter with left-hander Jose Quintana (1-1, 4.50), who looks to remain unbeaten against the Braves in his career. Quintana has won both of his outings against Atlanta and registered a 3.86 ERA.