Cubs look to end slump against Braves

MLB

Atlanta Braves starter Kyle Wright uncorked a quartet of hit by pitches in Friday’s road victory against the Chicago Cubs.

Recalled from the Braves’ alternate training site before the game, Wright joined not-so-exclusive company. Entering Saturday’s game against Atlanta at Wrigley Field, the Cubs have absorbed 13 HBPs through the first 13 games.

That’s one behind the franchise mark for such a span, which the team set last season.

While the Cubs’ dormant offense remains a sore subject, the team’s most surefire source of baserunners has soured recent conversations, too.

Sort of.

Major League Baseball this week determined that Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera intentionally threw at Brewers counterpart Brandon Woodruff on Tuesday. MLB suspended Tepera for three games and manager David Ross for one over the incident, which resulted from Chicago catcher Willson Contreras being hit by a pitch earlier in the game. At that point, Contreras had been plunked by Brewers pitching three times this season.

Tepera threw low to Woodruff, and the delivery didn’t make contact with him, puzzling the Cubs all the more.

“To be blunt, today’s game of baseball has become so soft,” Tepera said. “Back in the day, matters were settled on the field, one of many unwritten rules that have changed over time.”

Contreras has been hit by an MLB-high 19 pitches since the beginning of the 2020 season, including once during Friday’s 5-2 loss, when he also hit a solo home run. That sets the pace for the Cubs, who also lead the majors in team HBP over that span.

“We lead the league in getting hit by pitches, and it’s not even close,” said Ross, who served his suspension Friday. “And we’ve never intentionally retaliated, to my knowledge.”

If it’s any consolation for the Cubs, Braves righty Huascar Ynoa, who is set to start Saturday, hasn’t hit a batter in 12 innings over three appearances and two starts this season. That’s because Ynoa (0-0, 0.75 ERA) is pitching effectively, with 15 strikeouts against just two walks. Ynoa has not faced the Cubs in his career.

Chicago has lost seven of nine and scored two runs or fewer six times during that span. Friday’s win marked the Braves’ second in a row on the heels of a four-game losing streak.

Marcell Ozuna had three hits and an RBI Friday after going hitless in nine at-bats over the previous two games. He is 7-for-16 with a double in his career against Cubs scheduled Saturday starter Trevor Williams (1-1, 6.75).

Ronald Acuna Jr. has scored a run in eight straight games and has 18 runs scored in 14 games.

Two lineup regulars left the series opener against the Cubs with injury. Outfielder Ender Inciarte hurt his left hamstring while running the bases in the fourth inning, while second baseman Ozzie Albies was hit by a pitch on the calf in the ninth. Braves manager Brian Snitker said the team would know more on both players as Friday progressed.

Williams is 0-0 with a 2.77 ERA in three career appearances against the Braves, including two starts, with 13 strikeouts and two walks in 13 innings.

–Field Level Media

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