By The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO — After going hitless in his first four at-bats Thursday, Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers knew he needed to change his approach at the plate.
A brief talk with Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer steered Flowers out of trouble.
“I was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing wrong all night, swinging at bad pitches,” Flowers said. “(Seitzer) helped me with the adjustment I needed to make. That led to me getting into a better count and getting a more predictable pitch.”
Flowers picked a perfect time to fix his swing. His single to right field drove in the go-ahead run as the Braves outlasted the Chicago Cubs for a 4-3 win in 11 innings.
Nick Markakis had two home runs and three RBIs to power the rest of the Braves’ offense. Markakis’ game-tying solo home run in the ninth inning marked Atlanta’s first hit since the second inning.
Atlanta (29-57) snapped a four-game losing streak by winning the makeup of an April 30 rainout. The Braves notched their sixth extra-inning victory of the season.
“It’s big to get a win, especially against a ballclub like that in a ballpark like this,” Markakis said. “That’s the only way you learn. You’ve got to be put in those situations, and when you get in those situations against good teams like that, you’ve got to take advantage of opportunities with guys on base.”
Willson Contreras finished 3-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs to lead the Cubs. Chicago (52-33) lost for the seventh time in eight contests.
Cubs closer Hector Rondon blew a save opportunity in the ninth inning as Atlanta evened the score at 3. Markakis ripped a line drive into the right field bleachers to cap his third career multi-homer game.
“(Rondon) with a one-run lead, you’re looking for the game to be over and then everybody is happy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
Braves left-hander Dario Alvarez (3-1) pitched one scoreless inning to secure the win out of the bullpen.
Cubs right-hander Spencer Patton (1-1) drew the loss after allowing one run in two innings.
Braves right-hander Mauricio Cabrera recorded the final three outs for his second save. Jeimer Candelario flied out to center field to end the game at 12:34 a.m. CDT.
Chicago scored three runs in the eighth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring single to right field to score Kris Bryant, and Contreras followed with a two-run triple to the center field wall that scored Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
In the top of the ninth inning, both teams’ benches cleared but no punches were thrown after Jeff Francoeur and Contreras exchanged words at home plate. No players were ejected, and play resumed several minutes later.
The testy exchange occurred one inning after Bryant and Rizzo were plunked in consecutive at-bats, with Bryant being hit by a pitch for the second time in four at-bats.
Chicago’s comeback spoiled a strong start by Braves right-hander Lucas Harrell, who allowed one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings. Harrell walked two and struck out five.
Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel also did not figure into the decision. Hammel allowed two runs on three hits in five-plus innings before leaving because of cramping in his right hand.
Hammel was visibly upset as he walked off the mound after 80 pitches.
“It’s frustrating is all I can say,” Hammel said. “I felt good today, too. Save for the one mistake, I felt really good. … For the thumb to pull me out of the game ticks me off.”
Markakis converted Hammel’s lone mistake into a two-run home run in the first inning. The Atlanta right fielder turned on a high fastball and launched a towering shot off the bottom of the right field scoreboard.
NOTES: The start of Thursday’s game was delayed 1 hour and 35 minutes due to rain. … Chicago OF Dexter Fowler (strained right hamstring) is set to begin a rehab assignment Friday with Class A South Bend. Fowler, 30, has been on the 15-day disabled list since June. He will be re-evaluated Saturday and could be activated to play in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday. … Atlanta INF Gordon Beckham was activated from the 15-day disabled list. Beckham missed 33 games after he strained his left hamstring June 1. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts Thursday. … Cubs RHP Adam Warren could earn another start shortly after the All-Star break, manager Joe Maddon said. … Braves OF Emilio Bonifacio was designated for assignment. Bonifacio, 31, hit .129 with one RBI in 15 games.