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Cubs’ offense reawakens in one pitch, Assad continues great start to season with six shutout innings in win over Braves

ATLANTA — After the first pitch of their game Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs had already scored more runs than they had in their previous two games combined.

They added some more, and that was plenty for Javier Assad.

Mike Tauchman homered on the game’s first pitch to finally get the Cubs on the scoreboard, then Assad delivered another fantastic start, as Chicago avoided a sweep with a 7-1 victory over the Braves in Atlanta.

The Cubs were shutout in each of the first two games of the series, but Tauchman ended that right away Wednesday by taking the first pitch of the game from Braves starter Charlie Morton to the opposite field, just over the wall in left.

The Cubs added two more runs in the top of the first, forcing Morton to throw 35 pitches in the inning and giving Assad a 3-0 lead before he took the mound.

That was more than enough, as Assad (4-0) allowed just four hits and walked one while matching a season high with seven strikeouts. With six shutout innings against the Braves’ high-powered offense, Assad lowered his season ERA to 1.49 through nine starts.

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“I’ve been very pleased with just being able to stay healthy,” he said through an interpreter. “The ability to start, in general, and go out every five or six days. Just really happy to be able to go out there.”

The Cubs are 3-13 over their last 16 games at Atlanta’s Truist Field, but Wednesday’s victory ended the series and the road trip on a high note.

“Its’s a good team over there,” Cubs catcher Yan Gomes said. “You tip your cap and move on. There are some good teams ahead of us, and we’re a good team and battling in the division still.”

Chicago finished 3-3 over six games in Pittsburgh and Atlanta and return home 1.5 games behind Milwaukee, which also won Wednesday, for first place in the National League Central standings.

The Cubs now play seven straight at Wrigley Field against the two teams they just played on the road. The Pirates are in for a four-game series beginning Thursday night, then the Braves come to the North Side for a three-game set next week, after the Cubs have an off-day Monday.

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Offense comes alive

On Wednesday night, Pete Crow-Armstrong went 2-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored, and Seiya Suzuki joined Tauchman with homers for the Cubs, who had 13 hits after mustering just eight total in the first two games of the series.

Nick Madrigal had three hits and Michael Busch scored two runs.

Assad, meanwhile, has allowed just four earned runs in his last six starts and hasn’t given up more than two runs in a game this season.

“He’s pitching at an elite level,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “It is just exceptional what he is doing. He’s off to a wonderful start, and I’m happy for him.”

Morton (3-1) lasted just three innings for the Braves, giving up four runs — three earned — and five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

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“Obviously, they pitched really well the first two nights and we got nothing, so early runs were just a good place for us, and we got a good starting pitcher out of the game quickly,” Counsell said.

After Tacuhman’s homer to lead off the game, Suzuki followed with a double and Cody Bellinger singled. Christopher Morel’s grounder to shortstop knocked in another run before Madrigal’s infield single loaded the bases. Crow-Armstrong was hit on the shin to force in another run and give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

The Cubs tacked on a run against Morton in the third. After Miles Mastrobuoni walked and Madrigal singled to put runners at first and third, Morton threw wild to first on a pick-off attempt, plating Mastrobuoni.

Chicago’s Ben Brown gave up a run in two innings of relief, and Luke Little finished with a scoreless ninth.

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Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña, who played in each of Atlanta’s first 39 games, was given a day off to rest. He’s off to a slow start, hitting just .245 with three homers.

“He can have two days,” manager Brian Snitker said, referring to the Braves having Thursday off. “Just talked to him (Tuesday) night after the game. Just let him relax a little bit and wake up (Wednesday) knowing he’s got two days to kind of detox a little bit.”

The Braves avoided a shutout in the seventh inning on a pair of doubles by Orlando Arcia and Zack Short.

Trainer’s room

Cubs: RHP Keegan Thompson was placed on the 15-day injured list with a viral illness retroactive to May 12. LHP Luke Little was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. … Infielder Nico Hoerner missed his second straight game with a sore hamstring. Counsell said he doesn’t know if a trip to the IL is in play.

Up next

Cubs: LHP Justin Steele (0-0, 4.73) will open up a four-game series at home against Pirates RHP Jared Jones (2-4, 2.68) on Thursday night.

First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m.

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