The Braves provide a role model for the Cubs



Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele showed glimpses of potential in the weekend series against the Braves that give hope for the Cubs’ rebuilding foundation.

But the Cubs will need more stalwarts before they can prove the foundation is strong enough to regain their National League title contender status.

The defending World Series champion Braves serve as a role model without investing heavily in the free agent market.

After losing two straight games on a 14-game winning streak, the Braves bounced back Sunday by beating Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks en route to a 6-0 triumph at Wrigley Field.

The Braves have built a cohesive roster of dazzling prospects and seasoned veterans. Ian Anderson, 24, who pitched five no-hitter innings to beat the Astros in Game 3 of the 2021 World Series, controlled the Cubs with 623 goalless innings.

Michael Harris II, 21, the Braves’ top prospect whom they refused to trade when acquiring first baseman Matt Olson from the Athletics, powered a three-run fifth with a home run against Hendricks.

Travis d’Arnaud, 33, set the tone with a three-run homer against Hendricks in the first and provides balance behind the plate with 24-year-old William Contreras.

“There’s unlimited young talent,” said Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly, who went 11-4 in 29 games with the Braves last season. ”Everybody’s young there except Charlie Morton, and he’s on a whole different level with the way he’s throwing at 38, throwing 98 [mph]. It gets better every year. It’s like a fine wine.”

Morton pitched seven three-hit innings, but Thompson replied with more than six scoreless innings as the Cubs cruised to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the series on Friday. But the Braves haven’t lost more than two straight games this season.

Meanwhile, injuries have compounded the Cubs’ growing pains, and May sensation Christopher Morel is six for his last 36 games with 17 strikeouts.

Hendricks (2-6) has an 8.10 ERA in his last five starts and a 15.00 ERA with nine homers allowed in his last three starts against the Braves.

”At present. . . repeat that [consistency] from one outing to the next was a bit difficult,” manager David Ross said.

The Braves survived well without first baseman Freddie Freeman, who signed with the Dodgers after acquiring Olson. Olson went 3-for-3 with three doubles on Sunday, including one that knocked out Hendricks in the fifth.

“It’s mostly the same team they had last year, minus Freeman, so I see a hungry, competitive, pretty good team,” Cubs infielder Jonathan Villar said.

The process of signing up young players has allowed the Braves to win and grow steadily, even as they recover from the loss of speedy second baseman Ozzie Albies to a broken left foot.

“We’re doing a really good job in the minor leagues preparing our guys,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We have guys like Greg Walker, Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez before I stole it from the minors. They’re restored, high-achieving major league players and coaches, and they’re doing a great job of grooming these guys.

”And none of them know until they have [to the majors]. I don’t think anyone will until you get here and do this. And the composition of the player has a lot to do with it. We are proud of the composition of our players in the system.”

Shortstop Dansby Swanson, who is batting 381 in his last 26 games, could hit his peak as he reaches free agency.

“We want a finished product,” Snitker said. ”It does not work like that. It takes a lot of at-bats and years to figure things out. I think he’s starting to.

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