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Braves dominate in 2-0 win over Cubs

Reynaldo Lopez was sharp again and AJ Minter held strong at the end to help the Atlanta Braves earn a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

The Braves were fortunate to get on the board early against Shota Imanaga first. Ronald Acuña Jr. took a first walk. Ozzie Albies stepped out into foul territory for the first out. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Imanaga singled Acuña at first base. Acuña was slow to react and tried to get back to his feet. It was originally ruled safe, but the Cubs challenged it and the game was called. Acuña was knocked out twice in Sunday’s loss at New York.

This would prove costly as Ozuna worked with a lead on a Matt Olson single that would have easily scored Acuña from second. Imanaga struck out Adam Duvall to end the inning and leave the runners stranded.

Reynaldo Lopez started his evening well. He allowed a one-out single to Seiya Suzuki but nothing else in a scoreless first. Michael Busch singled with two outs in the second half, but was thrown out while attempting to steal by Travis d’Arnaud to end the inning.

Lopez retired the team in order in the third and Atlanta’s offense threatened again. Ozzie Albies got things started with a two-out single. Marcell Ozuna battled through nine pitches at bat and hit a single to right to put runners on the corners. However, the Braves were once again unable to get a big hit as Imanaga struck out Olson to end the threat.

Lopez worked another scoreless inning in the fourth and Atlanta’s offense threatened again. Duvall led off the inning with a single, then advanced to third on a one-out single by Michael Harris. Imanaga then struck out d’Arnaud for his seventh strikeout of the game, but then walked Zack Short to load the bases for Acuña. Imanaga fell behind 2-1 in the count, then checked his swing. First base umpire Junior Valentine ruled there was no swing, prompting protests from the Chicago dugout. Cubs manager Craig Counsell was subsequently forced out. When play resumed, the Braves were again unable to muster a big hit as Acuña flew out to right to leave the bases loaded.

Lopez retired seven straight batters before walking Nico Hoerner with one out in the fifth. He then took Busch out. Hoerner moved into scoring position on a wild pitch and Lopez walked Miles Mastrobuoni following a running clock violation to make it 3-2. Lopez came right back and forced Miguel Amaya to tap out to keep the match scoreless.

Lopez gave way to Ray Kerr to start the sixth. Lopez was sharp again, allowing two hits and two walks in five scoreless innings. He was relieved after only 71 pitches, 50 of which were strikes.

Kerr pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth, including a strikeout of Cody Bellinger to end the inning. Imanaga gave way to Hayden Wesneski to start the sixth. Wesneski struck out Arcia and Harris to start the inning before d’Arnaud dropped a double down the left field.

Atlanta’s offense finally broke through from there as Zack Short doubled down the first base line to score from Arnaud.

Acuña followed with a single to left and Short raced home to make it 2-0. Acuña’s hit put Atlanta up 10 in the game for the first time since April 24.

Kerr struck out Christopher Morel and Ian Happ in a perfect seventh. Dylan Lee struck out Nick Madrigal to start the eighth, then got Patrick Wisdom to fly out to left for the second out. He then allowed back-to-back singles to Amaya and Mike Tauchman to put runners on first and second. Brian Snitker stayed with Lee who got Suzuki to head to the center to end the threat.

Instead of Raisel Iglesias, Snitker opted to go with AJ Minter one night after missing a save chance Sunday night in New York. Bellinger led off the inning with an infield single. Minter then lost Morel in a 12-pitch battle for a walk to put runners on first and second.

With his back against the wall, Minter had Happ tip down a grounder to Arcia for a crucial double play. Hoerner flew out to center on the next field to end the game.

Albies and Olson finished with two hits each to lead the way for the Braves. Short recorded his first hit in an Atlanta uniform with his double in the sixth inning. He is 1 for 3 with three walks and three runs scored in two games with the Braves.

Atlanta improves to 25-13 on the season. The series continues on Tuesday with Chris Sale taking on Jameson Taillon.