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Cubs pummel Braves, breathe ‘collective sigh of relief’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
With the home run ball in his left hand, a Cubs fan jumped into his companions’ arms, his forearms propped on their shoulders.
That ball, struck into the left field bleachers by Cubs shortstop Javy Báez, didn’t represent just any home run. In the Cubs’ 13-4 win Saturday against the Braves, Báez’s three-run shot marked the moment the game became the Cubs’ best offensive performance of the year.
“That’s what this lineup’s capable of on any given night,” Cubs manager David Ross said after the game. “… I think it was well-deserved, well-needed.”
The Cubs’ offensive struggles to start the season have been well documented. They entered play Saturday ranked last in team batting average (.166) and runs per game (2.62).
They hadn’t yet scored more than five runs in a game, the Cubs’ longest opening stretch (13 games) of that kind in 40 years.
Then came Saturday and a string of 2021 firsts.
“We've really had to grind early on,” Bryant said. “Sometimes it's great to go through that and realize that, hey, we're going to face these guys a lot this year, so let's get after it together, and it'll turn around. And today it did.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras started off the scoring spree. He hit an opposite-field shot over the right field fence in the first inning. It was his third home run in his past three starts, marking the first time in his career that he’d homered in three consecutive games.
In the second inning, Jason Heyward and David Bote hit back-to-back doubles to make it a 2-0 game.
Contreras led off the next inning with another solo homer. Then Báez piled on with a three-run bomb. The Cubs took a 6-0 lead, setting a new season high for runs scored. But the offense wasn’t even halfway done.
Bryant and Bote combined for another two-homer inning in the fifth, driving in five runs combined. Bryant hit another home run the next inning, tacking on two more runs.
Even Cubs starting pitcher Trevor Williams logged a single, a slow-roller up the third-base line. He became the first Cubs pitcher with a hit this season.
“We've been staying positive in the clubhouse,” Báez said. “We've been staying together, and we're still learning from other guys. So, we try to make the adjustment as a team to stay together during the game.”
The Cubs set season highs in runs (13), home runs (six), extra-base hits (nine) and hits (14) on Saturday.
The Cubs’ 13 runs didn’t just dwarf their previous season high. The club hadn’t scored that many runs in a game since Sept. 15, 2019 (16 runs vs. Pirates).
“It's just a collective sigh of relief,” Bryant said. “We can feel good about this one for 24 hours until the next one. But hopefully we are able to use this success from today and carry that confidence, that comfort forward into not just tomorrow. We have a lot of games left.”
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