Paul Byrd provided us with a story on the Fox Sports broadcast about how he spoke with Bryse Wilson before taking the mound for his second start of the season – the first since the opening series in Philadelphia. Wilson told Byrd how excited he was, not only to be back but because his velocity had returned to the mid-to-high 90s. This was a different pitcher than the one that began the season with the Braves, and he was ready to carve out a more permanent role in the rotation.
Unfortunately, the Cubs weren’t as interested in making that happen. Kyle Schwarber foreshadowed what was to come, smoking a hanging slider into the bleachers to begin the bottom of the first. That did not phase Wilson; however, who gave up a single to Anthony Rizzo and then retired the next eight batters in a row. The Cubs were having trouble catching up with his much-improved fastball that was sitting at 96 all afternoon. Meanwhile, the Braves red-hot offense had no plans of slowing down.
They jumped all over Tyler Chatwood from the second inning on. Ozzie Albies got the party started with an RBI single, but most of the damage was done in the third when Freddie Freeman homered to cap off a three-run inning. The Braves would add two more in the fourth on a Dansby Swanson single – his second and third RBIs of the game. Then Chicago’s offense woke up.
The Cubs took advantage of Wilson’s inability to throw his offspeed stuff, stringing together three hits following a leadoff walk to Rizzo. A wild pitch pushed Jason Heyward across for the third run of the inning, and Chicago added another in the fifth on a bloop double off the bat of Rizzo that was set up by an error on Nick Markakis. That was the final pitch for Bryse Wilson, who was unable to make it out of the fifth inning.
The line of four earned runs on six hits and one walk doesn’t look overly persuasive, but Wilson deserves another start while Folty and Gausman are figuring things out. He was aggressively attacking hitters with a fantastic fastball and flashed some quality offspeed stuff. The Cubs offense was just better today, and luck was not on his side. This was a much better Bryse Wilson than the one that took the mound in Philadelphia to begin the year.
The Cubs didn’t stop when he left the game. They grilled Josh Tomlin for three more runs in the fifth, stretching their lead to two.
Ozzie Albies cut it in half with a solo shot to dead center, his 13th of the season, but it was wasted when Tyler Flowers let one past him with two outs and a runner on third. Then, the inevitable happened. Craig Kimbrel, who was activated before today’s game, came in to face his former team for his first appearance of the season.
Fittingly, the future Hall-of-Famer did what he does best. He struck out his old partner Brian McCann with a slider that was well off the plate and forced Johan Camargo to ground out weakly to second. Ronald Acuña briefly stopped the celebration with a two-out double followed by a Dansby Swanson walk, setting up an epic matchup with Freddie Freeman at the plate representing the go-ahead run. The anticipation didn’t last long, however, as Freeman jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit a hot-shot down the line, but Rizzo was able to field it and seal the series split for the Cubbies.