ATLANTA – Scott Feldman knew he couldn’t afford to make many mistakes against the Atlanta Braves’ potent lineup.
Unfortunately for Feldman, he was his own worst enemy.
“That’s a tough lineup there, and when you’re behind in the count you can’t give in,” he said. “They battled well and made me throw way too many pitches.”
Feldman’s command problems and a sluggish offense were contributing factors in the Cubs’ 4-1 loss to Atlanta on Friday night.
Justin Upton hit his third homer in four games, Juan Francisco had a two-run single and Mike Minor (1-0) won his first start of the season for the Braves.
Minor allowed one run and five hits in 71/3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven.
Eric O’Flaherty got two outs in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel threw eight pitches in a perfect ninth for his second save.
Making his Cubs debut, Feldman (0-1) threw two wild pitches, hit a batter and had a fielding error in the fourth when he missed the bag in an attempt to cover first base.
The right-hander gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in 42/3 innings. He struck out one.
Feldman, who spent his first eight seasons with Texas, is 0-6 with a 6.85 ERA over his past nine starts – but his new teammates did little to help him offensively.
In the first four games, the Cubs’ offense has managed just 16 hits and seven runs. Against the Braves, the top four spots in the batting order went a combined 1 for 14. The Cubs put just two runners in scoring position.
“Nobody’s swinging the bats at all right now,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Somebody’s going to have to step up now and get hot. Hopefully it’s the whole team, but we don’t have a lot going offensively now.”
Upton’s shot gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first. His sacrifice fly in the third drove in Andrelton Simmons to make it 2-0.
Feldman could only blame himself for the second run. He issued a leadoff walk to Simmons, who stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Minor’s one costly mistake came when Scott Hairston led off the fifth with a homer, his first, to make it 2-1.
“I think he was locating, for the most part, well on his fastball,” Hairston said of Minor. “He was able to get us to chase a couple of times in the dirt with his hard slider. A lot of pitches were tough to pick up out of his hand because of his delivery. For the most part, when a young guy is tough to pick up, he’s hard to hit.”
Since the beginning of September last year, Minor is 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA in six starts. He also improved to 5-0 in five career starts against the Cubs.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to have a game like this every time, but I had the confidence coming into the season that I was going to attack the hitters like I did last year and throw more breaking balls,” Minor said. “I didn’t throw many two-seamers tonight.”
Francisco used an inside-out swing with one out in the fifth to drive the ball into left field for a two-run single that made it 4-1.
That hit chased Feldman, who threw balls on 49 of his 102 pitches.
“He basically was one pitch away from getting out of that,” Sveum said. “We didn’t want him to be at 100 pitches, but at that time it was his game to win or lose.”
Michael Bowden, who ended the inning on rookie Evan Gattis’ groundout, faced the minimum over the next 2 1-3 innings. Hector Rondon faced four batters in the eighth.
NOTES: New center fielder B.J. Upton reached base for the first time with the Braves when Feldman hit him with a pitch in the fifth. B.J. Upton, who is 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts this season, advanced to second on his first steal for Atlanta and scored on Francisco’s single. ... Gattis went 3 for 4 and was the only player on either team with more than one hit. ... Cubs SS Starlin Castro appeared in his 200th consecutive game, the NL’s longest active streak. ... Before the game, Sveum said Braves GM Frank Wren came to his office and asked that he keep Chicago players off the field while Atlanta was still taking batting practice. Some of the Cubs’ relievers were loosening up in left field with a few minutes left in the Braves’ allotted practice time. Sveum said he quickly obliged. “Realistically, two teams can’t be on the field at the same time, but obviously we all know at the end of (batting practice) that everybody always goes and throws and pretty much everybody’s work is done,” Sveum said. “The BP times got all goofed up, that’s part of it. Why all that happened, anyway.”