Braves Use Lockdown Pitching to Take Game One Versus Cubs

The Atlanta Braves sent A.J. Minter back out there and he got the save with a scoreless ninth inning.
Atlanta Braves pitcher A.J. Minter and catcher Travis d'Arnaud celebrate the team's 2-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night
Atlanta Braves pitcher A.J. Minter and catcher Travis d'Arnaud celebrate the team's 2-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

The Atlanta Braves uses some timely hitting and lock down pitching to take game one of the series from the Chicago Cubs, 2-0, in Truist Park on Monday night. 

Here’s what you need to know about from the contest.

Reynaldo López continued shoving 

López has been Atlanta’s best starter this season, entering tonight with a team-leading 1.53 ERA after six starts.

That ERA’s dropping after this one. 

López went five scoreless innings against the Cubs, striking out four and allowing only two hits and two walks. He threw only 71 pitches (50 strikes) before exiting for the 6th inning - the Braves didn’t announce any reason that he would leave early and so it’s safe to assume it was both for workload reasons and to prevent the righty from facing the top of the order for a third time. 

UPDATE: Postgame comments from manager Brian Snitker confirmed that Lòpez was actually removed because his “back tightened”, but there are no concerns that this could linger. He felt he could have continued and the team expects him to make his next start as scheduled. 

López channeled his former reliever self in this one - of his 71 pitches, 64 were either the fastball or the slider, with only seven curveballs (10% usage) mixed in. It’s not known if López wasn’t feeling the curveball or didn’t want to deviate from what was working, but it’d make sense that they’d try and get him out before the third time through if he only had the confidence in the two pitches. 

With mostly a two-pitch arsenal, López finished with 10 whiffs and a well-above-average 39% CSW. (MLB average is 30%.) 

The Braves made Shota Imanaga work

Cubs starter Shota Imanaga entered tonight with baseball’s lowest ERA at 1.08, going 5-0 in his first seven starts with only five walks against 43 strikeouts. 

Atlanta didn’t put up any runs on Imanaga, so his ERA dropped to 0.96 after this one. 

But Atlanta did make the lefty work, getting seven hits and drawing three walks off of the free agent who dominated NPB for eight seasons before taking his talents to Chicago. Shota still got his - eight strikeouts and 18 whiffs in his 98 pitches - but Atlanta made him work for it. Imanaga managed to pick off Ronald Acuña Jr (the third time that last year’s MVP was picked off of first base in the last ten innings of baseball) and stranded seven Braves, but Atlanta did break his streak of four straight quality starts. 

Zack Short is fitting in just fine

Atlanta swung what appeared to be a minor trade for recently DFA’d Zack Short last week, adding him to the open roster spot created when Luis Guillorme was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. 

It turns out to have been a little bigger than we all expected. 

With Austin Riley missing tonight’s game while waiting on results of an MRI he received for the “left side tightness” that forced him from last night’s game, Short got his first start in an Atlanta Braves uniform. The infielder, batting 9th and starting at Riley’s third base, flashed the glove on defense as well as the bat. 

With Travis d’Arnaud on second base in the 6th inning, Short doubled up the right field line to get Atlnata on the board and then promptly scored from second base on a Ronald Acuña Jr. single for Atlanta’s second run. 

In two games, Short has one hit, three walks, three runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base. He’ll also get a bit more playtime this week - Riley confirmed after the game that while he has just “inflammation” in his side, he’s also not expected to return to game action until sometime later this week, so Short (or utilityman Luke Williams) is expected to get at least one more start and probably two - with an off day on Thursday, a Friday return for Riley feels like the most likely scenario.   

A.J. Minter got back on his horse

Lefty reliever A.J. Minter was the villain of Braves Country on Sunday, serving up a walkoff homer in the 9th inning for the second time in a two-week span

So what did manager Brian Snitker do? Put him right back out there. 

With Raisel Iglesias and Joe Jiménez both getting yesterday off but still carrying the highest past three-day pitch counts on the team, Snitker put in Minter for the 9th inning with Atlanta nursing a 2-0 lead and #3 hitter Cody Bellinger due up. 

(Snitker confirmed after the game that the team wanted to rest both of those guys one more day, as Iglesias threw 48 pitches across the last two days and Jiménez's 30 pitches on Saturday was his longest outing since July 17, 2021 - as a member of the Detroit Tigers, he 31 pitches for two innings against the Minnesota Twins).

Minter made it dramatic - Bellinger singled his way on and Christopher Morel walked - but a double play and a fly-out put this one away for the Braves, giving Minter his first save of the season and hopefully some better vibes after Sunday night’s blown save. 

What’s next for the Atlanta Braves?

The Braves are back at it tomorrow in a battle of crafty veterans with lefty Chris Sale squaring off with righty Jameson Taillon. First pitch is scheduled for 7:20 PM ET on Bally Sports South.  


Published |Modified
Lindsay Crosby

LINDSAY CROSBY

Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at contact@bravestoday.com