CHICAGO — With an ugly 9-3 loss against the Cubs on Sunday, the Braves were swept in a four-game series at Wrigley Field for the first time in 47 years.
It only seems about that long since rookie Matt Wisler pitched eight dominant innings in his major-league debut.
Wisler gave up a career-high seven runs and four homers in a career-low 2 2/3 innings Sunday against the Cubs, who rocked Braves pitching for 12 homers in four games, including 18 runs and nine homers in the past two days. Cubs rookie slugger Kris Bryant homered twice Sunday.
The Braves lost all seven games on their trip to San Diego and Chicago and have dropped nine in a row on the road and 22 of their past 24.
“Obviously our team needs to win, and we know it,” Wisler said. “Tough toad (trip) right there. I was trying to come out and help give our team a chance to win, and I failed at that today.”
The Braves used three rookie starting pitchers in the series — Mike Foltynewicz, Williams Perez, Wisler — and none made it as far as five innings while allowing combined totals of 24 hits, seven homers and 20 earned runs in 13 innings.
“It was a rough outing,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Wisler’s worst start. “It’s tough, but it’s learning pains, growing pains, experience. We’ve been down this road in the past with some of our pitchers who are major league pitchers now, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor and that group. It takes awhile.”
The Braves mercifully return home to face Colorado Monday and start a nine-game homestand. They have a 21-47 record on the road, the most road losses in the majors, while at home the Braves are 32-24.
Before Sunday, the last time the Braves were swept in four-game series at Wrigley Field was August 19-21, 1968, which included a doubleheader.
After blowing a 7-3 lead in Saturday’s 9-7 loss, the Braves fell behind 7-0 through three innings Sunday, as the Cubs took advantage of the wind blowing out and teed off. Wisler (5-4) threw his hands in the air after Miguel Montero’s three-run homer in the third inning pushed the lead to 7-0.
“Pretty much everything,” Wisler said, when asked about the frustration he showed. “We needed a win today. I really didn’t give us a chance at all to be in the game. I gave up seven in the first three innings. It’s really hard to come back from that. I left a couple of pitches up, and they hit a couple of good pitches out. They hit a couple of mistakes out.
“They just hit the ball off me today.”
The Cubs are a season-high 20 games over .500 (71-51) and have hit 40 homers during a 19-4 stretch, the majors’ best record in that span.
Dexter Fowler homered on the second pitch thrown by Wisler, and things didn’t get any better for the rookie right-hander, whose August struggles reached a new low. He’s 0-3 with a 9.13 ERA in five August starts, with 36 hits, 23 runs and eight homers allowed in 22 2/3 innings.
“I think the ball’s getting up a little bit, I’ve got to start working down,” Wisler said. “It’s been a lot of lefties hitting home runs off of me. I think I’ve done a pretty good job on righties, except for Bryant today obviously. I’ve just got to figure out how to pitch to lefties up here.”
Wisler was 5-1 with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts during June and July, with four homers allowed in 42 innings. In his June 19 debut against the Mets, he pitched eight innings and allowed just six hits and one run with no walks. He’s lasted more than six innings once in 11 starts since his debut, and in August he’s pitched 5 1/3 innings or fewer in all five starts.
After the Fowler homer, Wisler recorded a pair of groundouts before walking Anthony Rizzo. Bryant followed with a first-pitch homer. Fowler and Bryant homered on fastballs, as did Kyle Schwarber with bases empty in the second inning, and Miguel Montero with two runners on in the third.
Even when he did get ahead in the count, Wisler struggled to put guys away. Schwarber homered on a 3-2 fastball, after Wisler got ahead in the count 0-2.
Montero homered on a 2-1 fastball in the third after taking a first-pitch strike. Wisler threw him four consecutive fastballs, and Montero crushed the fourth one.
Bryant homered again leading off the sixth inning against veteran David Aardsma. Bryant has 19 homers, the last 11 coming at Wrigley Field.