ATLANTA (AP) — Only five games into the season, the Chicago Cubs may already be pressing — especially when it’s time to turn to their bullpen.
The Atlanta Braves no longer have reason to press, thanks to two straight wins over the Cubs.
Johan Camargo hit a go-ahead, three-run double as the Braves took advantage of five walks by Cubs relievers in the eighth inning to beat Chicago 6-4 on Wednesday night.
Willson Contreras gave Chicago the lead with a long, two-run homer in the sixth. But the Cubs’ much-criticized bullpen went wild in the eighth and blew a 4-2 lead — it was Chicago’s third blown save this season and third loss by a relief pitcher in five games.
“We all want to get off to a good start,” Cubs starter Jon Lester said. “What we’re doing a little bit right now is maybe trying to press and do too much. Everybody is trying to come in and whether it be a hitting situation or a pitching situation and be the guy. That’s hard to do over 162 games.”
The Cubs (1-4) have lost four straight. The Braves have a needed confidence boost with two straight wins after being swept in three games at Philadelphia.
Steve Cishek (0-1) walked Atlanta’s first three batters in the eighth before manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander Randy Rosario. After taking a ball, Camargo lined the three-run double over Albert Almora Jr. in center field for a 5-4 lead. Camargo scored from third on Dansby Swanson’s sacrifice fly for a two-run lead.
“I was just looking for the right pitch and that’s what happened,” Camargo said through a translator. “It worked out.”
Camargo, in a super-utility role after spending much of 2018 as Atlanta’s starting third baseman, made his first start of the season.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Camargo was “really big” in the crucial at-bat. “It’s why we want to get him in there,” Snitker said.
Maddon described the three walks from Cishek as “unexpected” and “an anomaly.” Maddon said Rosario “just left a pitch in a bad spot.”
“We’ve got to put those games in the win column,” Maddon said. “It’s frustrating for everybody. ... We’re beating ourselves, pretty much, at the end.”
Luke Jackson (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for Atlanta. Arodys Vizcaino walked Anthony Rizzo with one out in the ninth before striking out Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber for his first save.
Swanson and Albies hit third-inning homers off Lester, who allowed two runs on six hits in six innings.
Contreras connected off Jonny Venters, giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead. The ball traveled 452 feet, according to Statcast, before landing on the second tier of landscaping behind the centerfield wall.
Braves starter Julio Teheran allowed one run on six hits and three walks in five innings and left with a 2-1 lead. Venters didn’t record an out before blowing the lead. Venters walked Schwarber before Contreras delivered the go-ahead homer.
Lester reached base three times, on a second-inning single that drove in Contreras and two walks.
Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (right elbow spur) will make a rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday. Foltynewicz, a 2018 All-Star, was projected to open the season as Atlanta’s No. 1 starter before having the elbow soreness. ... LHP A.J. Minter (left shoulder inflammation) is expected to come off the 10-day disabled list on Thursday following a successful side session on Tuesday. Minter could share saves chances with Vizcaino.
BAD DEFENSIVE START
The Cubs, who committed six errors in an 8-0 loss to the Braves on Monday night, had another miscue to open the game. Albies led off the game with a single up the middle that bounced past Jason Heyward in center field for a two-base error. Lester pitched around the error. It was the only error of the game.
Swanson remained in the game after he rolled his surgically repaired left wrist while trying to make a tag on Lester at third base in the sixth. “I don’t think it’s anything big,” Snitker said.
Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish will be closely watched in Thursday night’s final game of the series. Darvish walked a career-high seven batters while allowing three runs in only 2 2/3 innings in an 8-6 loss at Texas in his first start of the season on Saturday.
Braves: LHP Max Fried will make his first start of the season as he tries to show he belongs in the rotation. He has pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief this season.