ATLANTA — At least the Cubs couldn’t blame this one on the bullpen.
After the pitching let them down during a three-game series in Texas, the Cubs turned the page on the calendar Monday only to use their gloves for April Fools’ slapstick for much of the sloppiest fielding game since Joe Maddon arrived in Chicago.
Five Cubs combined to commit six errors — including two on one play by first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the third inning — in an 8-0 loss in the Braves’ home opener at SunTrust Park.
“It was just weird,” said second baseman David Bote, whose wild throw after a ball caromed off pitcher Kyle Hendricks’ glove led to an unearned run in the fifth. “It’s one of those fluke days, and you flush it.”
It was the first time since 2006 — and only the second time in 35 years — that the Cubs committed so many errors in one game.
They led to six unearned runs, including all four in the first, when rookie left fielder Mark Zagunis dropped a foul pop-up on the second pitch of the game.
The next pitch was a home run by Ender Inciarte.
“Just a really poorly played game on our part, from the beginning,” said Maddon, who characterized most of the physical errors as mental errors. “A lot of awkward things.
“Hopefully, that’s just an anomaly game, and we move on from there.”
The first inning also included a throwing error by shortstop Javy Baez, who was trying to turn a double play on a ball he should have held. Ozzie Albies then hit a routine fly to shallow left that fell among Zagunis, Baez and center fielder Albert Almora Jr. for a double after Zagunis failed to call for it.
By the end of the first, Hendricks had thrown nine extra pitches and trailed 4-0.
“From the first batter, I’ve got to pick my guys up better,” said Hendricks, who hadn’t pitched since March 21 after skipping his last spring start to finalize his $55.5 million contract extension and take his physical.
For all the talk of urgency heading into the season and the frustration of a 28-run effort in Texas with little to show for it, the Cubs seemed to press in this one — just four games into the season.
“I’m not sensing that at all,” Maddon said. “Not even a little bit.”
The closest the Cubs got to the Braves was on the final play of the top of the eighth, when Bote slid wide enough of second base on a double play that shortstop Dansby Swanson seemed to take umbrage, even though they didn’t come close to colliding. The benches emptied only for players to disperse as quickly as they gathered.
Zagunis, who also ran a poor route on Freddie Freeman’s double in the sixth, got some atonement with two doubles in the game. But he made the final out when he took off on Almora’s blooper over second and was easily doubled up after the ball was caught.
“That’s obviously not a good play on his part,” Maddon said. “We’ll talk about it.”
Said Bote: “We were saying it’s only on April Fools does a game like that happen. That’s why we’ve got 158 left to go. We’ll be all right.”