CHICAGO – The Cubs are going to get an eyeful of the Atlanta Braves this week, and they’ll need to sharpen their vision.
One thing is for sure: They’ll need to be more ready to play the Braves this week than they were Monday.
Once again, the Cubs’ execution and alertness weren’t what they should have been during a 6-5 loss in a makeup game at Wrigley Field.
The two teams will play three more games in Atlanta beginning Tuesday night.
While the Cubs are one of the glamour teams of baseball, the Braves are one of its “surprise” teams. The two teams split a pair of games last month in a rain-shortened series, and the Braves got the jump on the Cubs on Monday.“
It’s one of those things because the names aren’t big,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team dropped its second straight to fall to 21-17. “They’re going to be big names in a couple years. They’ll be more easily identifiable in a couple. They have some really great talent there. I’m a big fan.”
He should be. The Braves improved to 25-15, and they lead the National League East.
Center fielder Albert Almora Jr., one of the few bright spots for the Cubs with three hits and a homer, also paid homage to the Braves.
“They’re a great team, young guys that are hungry, and they’re playing well,” Almora said.
The Cubs are in a busy stretch of games, and they’re going to need better than what they got from starting pitcher Jose Quintana if the bullpen is going to continue its good season-opening run.
Quintana lacked command early, as he threw 33 of his 99 pitches for the game in the first inning. The Braves got a leadoff homer from Ozzie Albies and no other runs in the first, but Quintana walked three in the inning. He lasted only 42/3 innings, making it four times this year he has not been able to get to six.
“Things were really bad,” said Quintana, who is 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA. “My command early in the game, the first inning was  pitches. That’s so bad. I feel really bad with that. These guys are fighting. It’s so frustrating.”
The day began with the wind blowing out before things changed later. Almora gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second with a 2-run homer. Quintana allowed a two-run shot to Tyler Flowers in the third before Kris Bryant made it 4-3, Cubs in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer. But it came apart for Quintana in the fifth, when Jose Bautista got a fly ball up into the wind, and it carried out for a three-run homer.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo made one error. He also was picked off second base in the third. Ben Zobrist was doubled off first base on a liner to center to end the sixth. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning and came within one when pinch hitter Ian Happ was hit by a pitch, but Bryant lined out to left to end the game.
“We made too many mistakes early, and that also contributes to the starting pitcher having to throw more pitches, plays that we should have made,” Maddon said. “Today, we made a lot of mistakes. I consider them more mental than physical today, and I never mind the physical mistakes. I just thought maybe we weren’t on top of our mental game early on.”