CHICAGO — In the ninth inning, Matt Olson blasted a two-run home run. For a moment, it seemed like the Braves might have some magic at Wrigley Field.

Too little, too late.

A rough start and mistakes doomed the Braves, who lost 8-6 to the Cubs on Saturday.

Five observations:

1. In a world of overreaction and hot takes, a reminder might be helpful: Perhaps the only constant in baseball is the storms one will encounter over a season.

“Yeah, and probably more than once,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before Saturday’s game. “Just like a team, you’re gonna go through more than one stretch over the course of this six-month season that you’re going to have to fight through some adversity. Players are no different. Individually, they gotta do the same thing also.”

This is important to remember after Bryce Elder turned in a rough start Saturday. He allowed seven runs – five earned – over 4-1/3 innings. Chicago hit two home runs in a five-run first inning.

Since the beginning of June, Elder has a 5.07 ERA over 11 starts. More recently, he followed two rough starts with two good ones.

Then came Saturday.

It has been up and down recently. But Elder probably has exceeded expectations this season. He’s one reason the Braves have the record they do. Tough stretches happen.

In addition to seven hits, Elder issued three walks Saturday. All three runners scored.

Asked how he assesses where he is, Elder said this:

“I think I still am pleased with how I’m throwing it. The walks, I beat myself today. But there was a couple of starts where it was just kind of like, I didn’t know really the direction I was going. I’m not gonna say I was pleased with (Saturday), because I wasn’t at all, but I know I’m still on pace. So I’ll just get ready to go next week. Obviously, if I try not to beat myself next week, we’ll be all right.”

2. Elder walked the first two Cubs he faced. He said he felt he commanded the ball well, but was barely missing.

Eventually, he served up two home runs – one to former teammate Dansby Swanson.

“I think they’re swinging it really good right now, and I flat out beat myself today,” Elder said. “I knew that if I could keep it close, we were gonna have a chance.”

He pitched into the fifth inning. He gave up two more runs. It would have been one had he not issued a leadoff walk in the fifth.

“You’re going to have games (like this),” Snitker said after the loss. “You’re not gonna be perfect all the time. It’s hard. He’s had two really good ones. It’s just part of the learning process and different things. He’ll take away things from this game, and it’ll hopefully make him better.”

3. In the fourth inning, Marcell Ozuna froze after home-plate umpire Ryan Blakney’s called third strike on the outside of the plate. Ozuna stood there for a few seconds.

When he started walking to the dugout, he said something at Blakney. The two exchanged words, though it never appeared to become heated. And for what it’s worth, the pitch seemed really close and could’ve gone either way.

Blakney eventually ejected Ozuna.

Ozuna’s side of the story is this:

“I just said, ‘That’s not a strike’ and kept walking to the dugout. And then he said, ‘Stop.’ And I said, ‘That’s not a strike’ and I kept walking. And that’s when I got tossed. He was too sensitive, in my opinion. I didn’t say any bad word to him and I’m not yelling at him. I just said, ‘That’s not a strike.’”

Asked about the situation, Snitker said he didn’t fault Ozuna.

“I asked the umpire and he just said he argued a little too long,” Snitker said. “He told him to stop and he didn’t, and he got tossed.”

Atlanta Braves' Marcell Ozuna, center, argues with home plate umpire Ryan Blakney, left, as Braves' Eddie Rosario (8) listens after Blakney tossed Ozuna in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

4. “It was just the total package, I think, of a game,” Snitker said. “We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.”

In the first inning, Elder induced a grounder, but Olson couldn’t come up with the ball, and it rolled into right field. Two runs scored.

On one occasion, Eddie Rosario didn’t score from first on a ball into the gap because he hesitated at second base. On another, Ronald Acuña Jr. had to hang between first and second to see if a blooper would drop, and when it did, he was forced out at second base.

5. In the first inning, Swanson homered on a sinker down and in.

It looked like Elder executed his pitch.

“Yeah, I mean, I did,” he said. “Dansby’s obviously a really good hitter. We’ve seen it on our side of things before, too. I’m not going to say I was pleased with the result, but I thought I executed a pitch, and he won that battle, so hats off to him.”

Stat to know

3 – Acuña collected three hits for the third consecutive game. It’s the first time he’s had three consecutive three-hit games.


“I still thought I made some really good pitches today, but I just wasn’t good enough. Gotta be better.” – Elder

Up next

On Sunday, Charlie Morton will face Chicago left-hander Justin Steele in the series finale, which begins at 2:20 p.m. ET.