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  • Braves 6, Cubs 5 (10 innings): Acuna Steals 70th Base, and Steals the Cubs' Hope in Extras

    Steve Trefz

    Jameson Taillon pitched brilliantly into the seventh inning, the Cubs offense recaptured the lead twice in late innings, and none of it mattered. At the end of the day, the Cubs aren't the Braves. Here's how Game 2 of the series went down.

    Image courtesy of Dale Zanine - USA Today

    Cubs Video

    Box Score:
    Starting Pitcher: Jameson Taillon - 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (82 pitches, 62 Strikes, 68%)
    Home Runs: Mike Tauchman (8), Ian Happ (20)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Daniel Palencia (-.793), Mark Leiter Jr. (-.494), Julian Merryweather (-.189)
    Win Probability Chart (Via Fangraphs):


    The Cubs tried to pick themselves off the ground Wednesday night, remembering that they still controlled their playoff destiny. Jameson Taillon took to the hill to take another swipe at the National League titans, and Ozzie Albies took him deep in the bottom of the first to remind the Cubs that they were still the Braves. 

    Down 1-0, the Cubs offense showed resiliance and exellent base running in the top of the second, with Sean Murphy providing the error this time with a passed ball, and Cody Bellinger racing home to knot the game 1-1.

    Brian Snitker found his way to the clubhouse immediately after this, as replays showed a foul tip that would have nullified the run. Luckily for Cubs fans, no such remedy would be awarded. Having received a gift, the Cubs kept cashing in against Darius Vines. With one out in the top of the third, Mike Tauchman dug in, and went out at 108.8 mph.

    Not to be outdone, with two outs Ian Happ took Vines slightly further for his 20th of the season.

    Taillon Dominates...Until the Seventh
    Taillon's impressive September continued Wednesday night, allowing only the Albies homer and a double to Marcell Ozuna through the first five innings. Sitting at 53 pitches, the hurler faced a similar situation as his teammate Justin Steele faced the night before. Success against a dominant Braves offense, but about to face the lineup for the third time through.

    Taillon cruised through the sixth retiring both Ronald Acuna Jr. and Albies in stride as he set down his 14th and 15th batters in a row. The seventh inning was a different story, however, as a lead-off walk to Austin Riley and a single to Matt Olson led to runners at the corners with nobody out. Ozuna hit a routine grounder, but Nico Hoerner threw high to second base. All were safe, a run scored, and Taillon exited the game for Drew Smyly.

    And boy, did Smyly deliver! He struck out Sean Murphy and induced a pop out from Kevin Pillar to escape the seventh with a 3-2 Cubs lead.

    Can the Cubs Hold On?
    It turns out the answer to that question is not so simple.

    Julian Merryweather got the call for the eighth, and he could not escape the Acuna Jr. and Albies buzzsaw without surrendering the tying run. Cubs answered with a rally of their own in the top of the ninth. A single by Yan Gomes plated Dansby Swanson to put the Cubs ahead 4-3.

    In the bottom of the ninth, Mark Leiter Jr. got the call to save the game. Ozuna had other plans, as he belted his 37th homer of the year to tied the game. Michael Harris II followed that blast up with a drive of his own, doubling to put the winning run in scoring position with one out. Juan Cuas came in to try to save the day, and he did. Even after unleashing a wild pitch to move Harris to third, Cuas inticed weak grounders from Murphy and Pillar to send the game into bonus baseball.

    Extra Inning Magic?
    Tauchman started out the top of the 10th as the ghost runner, and he scored to give the Cubs the lead after two fly ball outs and some quality base running. Bellinger singled to keep the rally going, but Seiya Suzuki struck out to end the inning and to put the ball back in the Braves' court.

    Daniel Palencia entered with Pillar ghost running at second, and Orlando Arcia at the plate before the lineup turned over yet again. Arcia was retired, Acuna Jr. and Albies were not. Acuna Jr. singled in Pillar to tie the game, and then stole his 70th base of the season to tie the Braves all-time record and, more importantly, place himself in scoring position as the winning run. Albies appreciated the gesture, and collected his game-winning RBI immediately with a single to right.

    Again, the "magic" was just barely on the Atlanta side of the ledger, and the Cubs are still winless in this crucial week of baseball. Another brilliant start goes for naught, and tomorrow becomes the next "must win" game of the season.

    What’s Next: Operation Playoff Push tries to survive one more night in Atlanta, and the Cubs will send RHP Marcus Stroman (10-8, 3.88 ERA) back into action against a Braves pitcher to be named later. First pitch is scheduled for 6:20pm CDT on Thursday night at Truist Park.

    Postgame Interviews:
    (coming soon)

    Bullpen Usage Chart:

    Assad 49 0 0 20 0 69
    Merryweather 23 18 0 0 13 54
    Cuas 18 10 0 12 8 40
    Smyly 0 0 0 27 12 39
    Palencia 0 13 0 0 9 22
    Leiter 0 0 0 0 8 8
    Wesneski 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Wicks 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Thompson 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Little 0 0 0 0 0 0

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