CHICAGO (AP) — Matt Szczur hit his first career grand slam during a five-run eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs broke away from the Atlanta Braves, 6-1, on Friday.
Jon Lester struck out 10 over seven innings as the Cubs improved to 17-5, their top 22-game start since the 1907 team was 18-4.READ MORE: Women Turn Childhood Pastime Into Modern Day Workout With '40+ Double Dutch Club'; 'Get Fit While You’re Having Fun Doing It’
In a matchup of the clubs with the best and worst records in the majors, the Braves fell to 5-18.
It was 1-all in the eighth when the Cubs loaded the bases on two hits and a walk against Jim Johnson (0-3). Lefty Eric O’Flaherty relieved and gave up Anthony Rizzo’s go-ahead single with one out.
Szczur then followed by launching a pitch from Chris Withrow over the left field wall.
Szczur had played in 98 games with the Cubs over the past three seasons. It was the outfielder’s second home run this year.
Freddie Freeman’s solo shot in the fourth was only the Braves’ fifth home run of the season.
Atlanta loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, but Lester escaped. The lefty struck out two and got Nick Markakis on a grounder to prevent the Braves from taking the lead.
Lester gave up seven hits and walked two.
Pedro Strop (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth.
Braves rookie Aaron Blair, in his second major league start, retired 11 straight batters and didn’t allow a hit until Javier Baez’s leadoff double in the fifth. Baez scored on David Ross’ single.READ MORE: Lollapalooza Enters Day 2; Organizers Say 90% Of Fans Showed Proof Of Vaccination Thursday
Blair allowed two hits and three walks and struck out three in six innings.
After winning in Boston on Thursday night, the Braves didn’t get into their hotel rooms until 3:30 a.m., less than 10 hours before the first pitch.
And it was far from the Cubs’ only advantage on a 44-degree, cloudy day.
While manager Joe Maddon was asked before the game about Chicago’s best start in more than a century, the Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez fielded a question about his job security with, “It’s not like you’re throwing games.”
But their rebuilding effort has meant mighty struggles. The Cubs entered with an MLB-best plus-74 run differential, while Atlanta had scored 74 runs in all.
Braves: Gonzalez remains optimistic CF Ender Inciarte (hamstring) will return from the disabled list next week. . 2B Gordon Beckham (hamstring) is healing faster. “Inciarte has been a month. I think Beckham won’t take the full month,” Gonzalez said.
Cubs: Kris Bryant (mild ankle sprain) was out of the lineup, but was in the on-deck circle to pinch hit before the seventh inning ended. An MRI revealed no damage after he was hurt running the bases Thursday.
Tim Federowicz gets his first start behind the plate for the Cubs when he catches RHP John Lackey (3-1, 4.97 ERA) on Saturday. Federowicz was called up this week to replace the injured Miguel Montero. RHP Julio Teheran (0-3, 4.60) starts for the Braves.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Weekend Cool Down
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.