Resilient Cubs beat Braves 6-4 to continue playoff chase

The Cubs closed to 1 1⁄2 games behind the Brewers for the National League Central lead and tied the Reds for the final NL wild-card spot.

SHARE Resilient Cubs beat Braves 6-4 to continue playoff chase
Ian Happ and the Cubs moved into a tie with the Reds for an NL wild-card spot.

Ian Happ and the Cubs moved into a tie with the Reds for an NL wild-card spot.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

One of manager David Ross’ favorite attributes about this Cubs team is its resilience.

The Cubs showed that again Sunday, beating the Braves 6-4 in front of an amped-up crowd of 39,015 at Wrigley Field. Combined with the Brewers’ loss to the Pirates, the Cubs pulled to 1½ games of the National League Central lead. Losses by the Reds and Marlins also pulled the Cubs into a tie with the Reds for the final NL wild-card spot.

The Cubs have moved up the standings by going 15-4 in their last 19 games and finding different ways to win, which helped them take two of three from the Braves, despite getting routed 8-0 in the series opener Friday.

‘‘The thing I love about this team is the resiliency, the character, the consistency with which they come in every single day, who they are as humans,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I said this in spring training: They’re a fun group to be around.’’

Of course, it’s more fun for the Cubs when they’re winning.

The game easily could have gotten away from the Cubs, but they responded to every challenge thrown at them. Down 2-0 after Matt Olson’s third-inning home run off Justin Steele, the Cubs responded with two runs of their own. The Braves regained the lead in the fifth, but the Cubs answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. The Braves scored once in the sixth, but the Cubs restored their two-run lead in the seventh.

‘‘That’s a pretty relentless group over there on the other side, too,’’ outfielder Mike Tauchman said. ‘‘There was no panic, but it was like: ‘We have to keep putting pressure on them. We have to keep scoring runs. Whatever number we have, it’s not enough.’ ’’

Tauchman contributed two hits, two runs scored and one of the biggest defensive plays of the game, throwing out Ronald Acuna Jr. at home on a single by Ozzie Albies in the fifth. But the sequence that defined the game — and the Cubs’ recovery skills — came in the sixth.

With the Cubs leading 5-3, Steele loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single and was replaced by Michael Fulmer, who had to navigate the top of the Braves’ order with one out. The scenario didn’t start well, as Fulmer hit Acuna to trim the Cubs’ lead to 5-4.

But instead of letting that errant pitch unravel his day, Fulmer struck out Albies looking on a backdoor slider and got Austin Riley to swing through a 3-2 sinker and keep the Cubs ahead. Fulmer said he used the same approach he had against Acuna for the rest of the inning: He was looking for a double play. More specifically, he didn’t want to nibble against Albies and thought the sinker was the right 3-2 call for Riley.

‘‘One run is better than three or four,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just glad I could get the job done.’’

The Cubs also felt that way about Adbert Alzolay in the ninth. That inning began ominously, with Albies lacing a double to right. But Alzolay righted himself and got the next three hitters to nail down the save.

‘‘That’s just what [Alzolay has] been doing all year,’’ said Steele, who threw a career-high 110 pitches. ‘‘He’s a bulldog out there, and anytime he’s on the mound, we feel comfortable.’’

The Cubs appear to be comfortable fighting back, and it helped them again Sunday.

‘‘They’re going out there and continuing to play baseball for nine innings,’’ Ross said. ‘‘They’re not taking anything for granted.’’

The Latest
“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.
The White Sox selected left-hander Hagen Smith from Arkansas with the No. 5 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Forecasters say ‘torrential rains’ are likely. Chicago is under a flood watch. The storm could drop 2 to 3 inches of rain and bring winds in excess of 58 mph. Another storm system could move through the region Monday evening.
On the acclaimed NBC police drama, Sikking played Lt. Howard Hunter, uptight head of the Emergency Action Team.