Atlanta Braves' Tyler Flowers swings on an RBI single against the Chicago Cubs during the 11th inning of a baseball game early Friday, July 8, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh
July 08, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) A long, odd night turned into a frustrating early morning for a Chicago Cubs team that appears to have lost its swagger.

Nick Markakis homered twice, including a tying solo shot in the ninth inning, and Tyler Flowers' two-out single in the 11th early Friday morning gave the Atlanta Braves a 4-3 victory.

''A tough game,'' catcher Willson Contreras said in a nearly silent clubhouse after Chicago's 13th loss in 18 games.

Contreras' two-run triple in a three-run eighth inning put the Cubs up 3-2. But closer Hector Rondon blew his fourth save when he gave up the second homer to Markakis to lead off the ninth, Atlanta's first hit since the second inning.

Flowers then singled to right off Spencer Patton (1-1), and Freddie Freeman, who walked, barely beat Ben Zobrist's throw home.

Dario Alvarez (3-1) worked a perfect 10th before giving up consecutive singles to Contreras and Jason Heyward to lead off the 11th.

Mauricio Cabrera came in and got his second save by getting Addison Russell to ground into a double play before Jeimer Candelario flied to center as the last-place Braves snapped a four-game skid.

''It was big to get a win, especially against a ball club like that, in ballpark like this,'' Markakis said.

After starting 25-6, the Cubs have gone 27-27. Their three-game skid and losses in seven of eight games have dropped them a game behind San Francisco for the best record in the major leagues.

''It happens to everybody,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his team's woes. ''For anybody out there who believes it doesn't happen to every team, you're wrong.''

Tensions boiled after Markakis' fourth homer in the ninth. After Rondon struck out Adonis Garcia, Rondon threw an inside fastball to Jeff Francoeur. He and Contreras started jawing, and the benches and bullpens emptied. There was only some pushing and no ejections.

''I called a fastball in and he didn't appreciate that,'' Contreras said. ''After that he started talking to me and I stood in front of him.''

Before that, Cubs slugger Kris Bryant was twice hit by Lucas Harrell, one on a curveball, and Hunter Cervenka plunked Anthony Rizzo. Bryant didn't return to the field with stiffness in his left leg after his second hit by pitch.

Markakis put Atlanta ahead with a two-run homer in the first off Jason Hammel. The right-hander settled down to retire 11 straight before he was lifted with cramping in his thumb on the humid night after a four-pitch walk to Gordon Beckham.

''It's annoying,'' said Hammel, who said he had the issue one other time in his career. ''For a thumb to pull me out of a game, it ticks me off.''

After Lucas Harrell threw 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball in his second straight impressive start, the Braves bullpen gave up the lead.

Cervenka allowed an RBI single to Zobrist. Then Jim Johnson entered and the rookie Contreras hit a sinking liner to center that got by Ender Inciarte and scored two runs.

But the Cubs couldn't bust out of a slump in the makeup of an April 30 rainout that was delayed 1 hour, 35 minutes by rain and included a scary pregame incident.

A man was carted off Wrigley Field and hospitalized after he slipped and fell to the warning track while attempting to jump from the bleachers before the game. The Cubs didn't identify the man and didn't provide his condition.


Braves: RHP Julio Teheran, Atlanta's lone All-Star, returned to the team after being treated for an infection due to ingrown hair on his right thigh. Teheran thinks he'll start Saturday. ''I threw a bullpen today and I feel pretty good,'' he said. ... Beckham (hamstring) started at shortstop and went 0 for 4 after being activated off the disabled list before the game. Emilio Bonifacio was designated for assignment.

Cubs: CF Dexter Fowler (hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment Friday as the DH for Class A South Bend. Maddon said Fowler will play in the field Saturday, then they'll determine whether he'll be activated so he can play in his first All-Star Game.


Not scheduled to start before the All-Star break, Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks made his first career relief appearance in the sixth. He walked one in two hitless innings.


Braves: RHP Matt Wisler (3-8, 4.16 ERA) goes up against White Sox ace Chris Sale (14-2, 2.93) on Friday night.

Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (12-3, 2.33) starts Friday night in the opener of a division series at surging Pittsburgh and LHP Francisco Liriano (5-8, 5.34).

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