Braves bats quiet again as Cubs sweep

For three days at SunTrust Park the Cubs quieted the chatter about their underachieving rotation and swept aside the scuffling Braves.

Left-hander Mike Montgomery became the latest Cubs pitcher to be rejuvenated. The Braves lost 8-2 on Wednesday while producing only two hits and four base runners over six innings against Montgomery.

After sweeping National League West-power Arizona over the weekend, the Braves (45-48) lost three in a row to the Cubs (49-45). The Braves scored a total of six runs in the series and head to Los Angeles to face the surging Dodgers, who lead the majors in staff ERA.

“We swept a good ballclub, and we got swept by a good ballclub,” Braves right-hander R.A. Dickey said. “Now we’ll see.”

The Cubs are the defending World Series champions, but they’ve been inconsistent all season. They staggered into the All-Star break with four losses in six games.

The Cubs now have won six in a row and after a day off, play a three-game series against division-rival St. Louis at Wrigley Field.

“This is a team that is not going to stay dormant all year,” Snitker said of the Cubs. “They are too good. They were on a good run just like we had been. It was just one of them series. So we’ve just got to kind of regroup and get after them tomorrow.”

The Braves likely will have to rediscover their offensive punch to compete with the Dodgers. The Braves scored 4.92 runs per game in June and 5.42 over the first 10 games in July, but couldn’t do much against any of the three Cubs starters they faced.

During the four-game series in Los Angeles, the Braves are scheduled to face three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and All-Star lefty Alex Wood. The Dodgers had won 30 of 34 games before playing at the White Sox on Wednesday night.

“I think the baseball gods are due to slow them down a little bit,” Snitker said.

Montgomery, promoted to the rotation when Kyle Hendricks went to the disabled list in June, had been ineffective in his past three starts. Montgomery (2-6) held the Braves to one run and two hits before departing with a 3-1 lead after six innings.

Montgomery followed Cubs right-hander John Lackey, who was activated from the disabled list before Tuesday’s game and limited the Braves to a run over five innings. Cubs lefty Jon Lester had allowed nine earned runs over his previous two starts, including an outing of just two-thirds of an inning last week, but the Braves scored only one against him over seven innings.

The Braves also scored only two runs over nine innings against Cubs relievers during the series. They left 19 runners on base over the three games and were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

“We’re still fine,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We had opportunities. We had a bunch of opportunities throughout the series. We’ve just got to do a better job cashing in runners in scoring position and kind of creating the big inning. We were scraping one here and there.”

Dickey (6-6) gave up four earned runs over seven innings, including a two-out solo home run to Montgomery in the fifth inning and a leadoff homer to Tommy La Stella in the sixth. Javier Baez’s three-run homer against reliever Jose Ramirez pushed Chicago’s lead to 7-2.

The Braves got leadoff home runs from Ender Inciarte in the sixth inning and Flowers in the seventh. They loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning, but Matt Kemp grounded into a double play against reliever Pedro Strop.

The Braves didn’t get a hit against Montgomery until Danny Santana’s one-out double in the fifth inning. Sean Rodriguez followed with a walk, and then he and Santana advanced on a double steal with Dansby Swanson at bat.

Swanson struck out on three off-speed pitches, the last one a curveball in the dirt that he tried to check his swing against. Dickey grounded out to end the scoring chance.

The Braves produced just one base runner through the first three innings against Montgomery, and that took some work.

Rodriguez, the leadoff hitter in the third inning, appealed to the Braves’ dugout for a replay challenge after a Montgomery pitch grazed him. The Braves won the challenge but Swanson flied out, Dickey struck out and Inciarte grounded out to leave Rodriguez stranded.