CHICAGO — Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz didn’t know what to expect when he woke up June 1 and took that first bite back.
“You find yourself doing the same things [during a winning streak]’ Kranitz said. “Whatever you do when you first wake up, you do it exactly the same way. I try to eat the same things. you make it easy They don’t want anything to change. The bad thing is that the first thing I ate that day was a donut, so now I’m in trouble.”
Well, with the Braves’ 14-game winning streak over after a 1-0 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, Kranitz can now start his days with something other than a donut. But more importantly, he and the rest of the reigning World Series champions can now look forward to what might follow this series.
“I feel like we’re playing like we might be playing right now,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We just have to get out there and continue with what we have been doing so far. If we do that, we’re a pretty good club.”
Charlie Morton threw seven scoreless innings and the Braves’ strong lineup drummed a few balls. But with the wind blowing in at this historic stadium, some potential home runs became flyouts and AJ Minter had zero forgiveness after leading Jonathan Villar early in the eighth heat. Villar scored with Christopher Morel’s sacrificial fly, and the one run proved enough as Orlando Arcia ended the game with a bases-loaded groundout.
Thus, the Cubs ended their 10-game losing streak and the Braves bid farewell to their attempt to set a modern franchise record with a 15th straight win. But that kind of loss showed how many different variables can affect the bid to make just one win, let alone 14 in a row.
The Braves hit a top 35 MLB home runs during their winning streak from June 1-15. This was more than the combined home run totals of the Angels (12), Brewers (11), Guardians (seven) and Tigers (two).
Unfortunately, the long-ball approach doesn’t often work when the wind is blowing at Wrigley. Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna both ran long drives that probably would have been a home run most days. The Braves accounted for seven of the eight balls put into play at 100 mph or higher. None of those hard-hit balls resulted in a goal. Willson Contrera’s sixth inning single off the left wall of midfield was responsible for the Cubs’ 100+ mph exit pace from the game.
“You have to do a lot of things right consistently and for a long time [have that kind of streak]because a game like this can happen at any time,” Snitker said.
Well, if nothing else, Major League coach Eddie Perez can wear underwear again. After suffering an ugly loss to the D-Backs on May 31, the Braves were 23-27 and 10 1/2 games behind the first-ranked Mets in the National League East.
Perez decided it was time to change things up, essentially having one less thing to change while the team kept winning. Reliever Jackson Stephens turned clubhouse DJ and first base coach Eric Young Sr. has been exchanging lineup cards with the umpires and opposing teams for the past two weeks. Both received and retained that role when the club won on 1 June.
“They just don’t want to mess with the mojo,” said Braves first baseman Matt Olson.
With the help of that long winning streak, the Braves are now nine games above .500 (37-28). They started just 4 1/2 games behind the Mets on Friday. The defending champions are better off than last year, when they were 30-35 and eight behind after 65 games. They clinched a fourth consecutive title despite not having a winning record prior to August.
“I think it would have been easy to say we basically played under .500 or about .500 ball for four months last year, so it’s going to work out,” Morton said. “But the guys stepped on the gas a bit and really got the situation under control.”