Nobody expected 5-foot-9 Ozzie Albies to be among the major league home run leaders. Same with the Atlanta Braves‘ rise to the top of the NL East.
They’ve made a believer of Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Albies hit a leadoff drive for his 13th homer, Jose Bautista connected for a three-run shot and the Braves held off Chicago 6-5 on Monday.
Julio Teheran (4-1) pitched six innings and Tyler Flowers hit his first homer this season as NL-leading Atlanta (25-15) won for the sixth time in seven games. The Braves moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since July 28, 2014.
“It’s one of those things because the names aren’t big — they’re going to be big names in a couple years,” Maddon said. “They’ll be more easily identifiable. They have some really great talent there. I’m a big fan.”
A.J. Minter worked a shaky ninth inning for his second save in the makeup of an April 15 rainout. Minter hit Ian Happ to force in a run with two out, but Kris Bryant lined out to left to end the game.
Chicago closed out a 5-2 homestand with its second straight loss. Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. each hit a two-run homer, but Jose Quintana (4-3) allowed all three Atlanta homers after pitching six sparkling innings against Miami in his previous start.
The 21-year-old Albies drove Quintana’s second pitch the opposite way into the bleachers in right for his fourth career leadoff homer. The rookie second baseman tied Manny Machado, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper for the major league lead in homers. He also doubled and singled.
“A lot of quality at-bats throughout the whole ballgame, especially against Quintana,” Flowers said. “Right out of the gate, too. It’s always nice to get him on the ropes a little bit, get a couple runs across and give Julio something to work with.”
Almora went deep in the second, and Bryant connected in the third, but the Cubs were unable to keep up with the slugging Braves.
Flowers, Quintana’s former batterymate with the Chicago White Sox, hit a two-run shot in the third, a towering drive over the wall in left-center. Bautista lifted Atlanta to a 6-4 lead in the fifth, belting a drive to left for his second homer since joining the club on May 4.
Teheran allowed four runs and four hits, struck out one and walked three. The 27-year-old right-hander had a scoreless streak of 16 2/3 innings before Almora’s second homer of the season.
Sam Freeman replaced Teheran and got one out before departing with runners on first and second. Shane Carle then came in and retired each of his five batters while extending his scoreless streak to 13 innings.
Quintana was tagged for six runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings against a Braves team that has been feasting on left-handed pitching. Atlanta is 8-3 against lefty starters.
Players and coaches on both teams wore No. 42 jerseys after they were unable to play on Jackie Robinson Day last month. Both teams were traveling to Atlanta after the game to begin a three-game set Tuesday night.
It’s the first time the Cubs will play an opponent on consecutive days in different cities since April 16-17, 1990.
THIRTY DOWN, TWO TO GO
Bautista has homered in 28 current big-league parks and 30 overall after his first one at Wrigley Field gave the Braves the lead for good in the third inning.
Petco Park in San Diego and Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia are the only current big league stadiums he has not homered in. The 37-year-old has 333 career homers.
Cubs: Jason Heyward (concussion) will travel with the team to Atlanta, but Maddon said his return date is still unknown. He became eligible to come off the seven-day concussion list Monday. … RHP Yu Darvish (virus) remains on track to come off the disabled list and pitch Tuesday against the Braves.
Darvish (0-3, 6.00 ERA) will oppose Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (3-2, 3.21 ERA) on Tuesday night. Foltynewicz has limited opponents to two earned runs or less in seven of his eight starts.
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