Braves score twice on Suzuki’s fielding error, overcome 6-run deficit to beat Cubs

ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Murphy reached on a two-run fielding error by right fielder Seiya Suzuki in the eighth inning and the major league-leading Atlanta Braves overcame a six-run deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-6 on Tuesday night.

“I thought it was going to get caught, but it (was lost) in the lights or whatever happened, I don’t know,” Murphy said. “It’s good to be lucky some days.”

The victory eliminated wild-card contending Chicago from the NL Central race, giving the title to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Suzuki ran to his right and called off center fielder Cody Bellinger, but apparently lost the fly ball in the lights and dropped it. Drew Smyly (11-10) aided the comeback by throwing two wild pitches in the eighth, letting Matt Olson advance to third and setting the stage for pinch-runner Forrest Wall to steal second.

“I was actually seeing it pretty well until the very last second,” Suzuki said through a translator. “I honestly thought it went into my glove, so it was just that split second where it just blurred my vision.”

Both runners easily scored on Suzuki’s error. Brad Hand (5-2) worked a scoreless eighth to win it. Raisel Iglesias got his 31st save in the ninth after facing four batters.

“Those errors out there in the outfield don’t really lead to the best result, so I feel like I need to hold a better consciousness when I go out there and focus on my game,” Suzuki said.

The Braves cut it to 6-3 in the sixth on Kevin Pillar’s ninth homer, Olson’s RBI single and Marcell Ozuna’s RBI double. Pillar’s drive gave the Braves 300 homers for the season and made them the third team in major league history (joining the 2019 Minnesota Twins and 2019 New York Yankees) to hit 300.

Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 41st homer, a two-run shot to right in the seventh, to make it 6-5.

“We know what we’re capable of offensively,” Pillar said. “We just try to be a dangerous offense and compensate when the pitching is not on that day.”

Atlanta, already guaranteed a postseason berth for the sixth straight year, has a 4 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL’s best record. The Braves are three games ahead of Baltimore for the best record in the majors with five games left in the regular season.

The Cubs led 2-0 with two outs in the second on Yan Gomes’ RBI infield single and Miles Mastrobuoni’s RBI single up the middle. Suzuki made it 4-0 in the second when he tripled into the gap in right-center, and Bellinger’s RBI single padded the lead to 5-0 in the fourth, a liner that chased Bryce Elder.

Elder allowed seven hits, five runs and four walks in 3 2/3 innings. He has a 9.49 ERA in his last three starts. Justin Steele gave up six hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

The Cubs went up 6-0 in the sixth on Ian Happ’s RBI single, but that was as far as they would get.

“What a job the bullpen did tonight,” Murphy, the Braves’ catcher, said of the performances by Jackson Stephens, Pierce Johnson, Hand and Iglesias. “Those guys kept us in the game and gave the offense a chance.”

Chicago, trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2020, dropped a game behind Arizona for the second of three NL wild-cards. The Cubs are one-half game ahead of fourth-place Miami, which was rained out at the New York Mets.

WELCOME HOME

Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, playing his first game on the visitors’ side at Truist Park, came out of the dugout before the game to tip his cap following a video tribute and received a standing ovation when he was introduced before his first at-bat in the second inning. He finished 0 for 4 after striking out to end the game.

Swanson signed a $177 million, seven-year contract with Chicago during the offseason, leaving a Braves team that he helped win the 2021 World Series and 101 games last year before falling to Philadelphia in the NL Division Series.

Swanson was born and raised in nearby Marietta and gets to spend the night in his own bed during this series. He went to his parents’ house Monday night on the off day and ate his favorite dishes of cream corn and fried okra.

“I spent six, seven years of my career here and nothing but great memories and support from everyone up top to the guys you grind it out with every day,” he said before the game. “The fans here have always shown me a lot of love and respect especially when it’s your hometown where you grew up.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs INF Jeimer Candelario (back) is eligible to return from the injured list and is still continuing baseball activities. Manager David Ross said Candelario is very close to returning. … Chicago RHP Adbert Alzolay (forearm) played catch before the game, and Ross said his next step would be facing live hitters.

UP NEXT

Cubs RHP Jameson Taillon (8-10, 5.15 ERA) will face a yet-to-be announced starter for Atlanta as the teams play the second game of a three-game series.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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