Record day for Braves in sweep of Cubs
Atlanta ties franchise mark with eight homers, wins in 11th
CHICAGO -- As he watched batting practice at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon, manager Bobby Cox correctly predicted the elements were going to lead to an offensive explosion. But his optimistic outlook prevented him from foreseeing the ninth-inning disaster that nearly wrecked his club's home run barrage.
With both Edgar Renteria and Adam LaRoche providing a pair, the Braves matched a franchise record with eight homers. But they still needed Marcus Giles' 11th-inning RBI single to claim a 13-12 victory and complete their three-game sweep of the Cubs, who tallied their double-digit run total without the benefit of a home run.
"It was a crazy day at Wrigley," said Cox, after his team matched a season high with its fourth consecutive win and completed a nine-game road trip with six victories. "That's the only way I can describe it."
With the Braves tallying each of their eight homers and first 12 runs in the first seven innings, there was already enough to have called it a very eventful day on the North Side. The zaniness and craziness began in the ninth inning, when Lance Cormier and Chris Reitsma squandered a four-run lead, and continued into the 11th, which began with Ryan Langerhans reaching second base on a pop fly that came down on top of third baseman Aramis Ramirez's head.
Langerhans scored when Giles' decisive two-out single off Scott Eyre skidded just in front of diving Jerry Hairston's glove in right field. Ken Ray was perfect in the bottom half of the 11th inning to notch his second save and provide more reason to be the team's closer.
"It was just a timely hit," Giles said. "I was just trying to get a single out there. I wasn't trying to do too much. The ball was flying pretty good today."
The final part of Giles' comments might have been the understatement of the day, when the wind was blowing straight out to center field. The Cubs had never allowed eight homers in a game in the long history of their franchise, and the only previous time the Braves hit eight in a game was Aug. 30, 1953, their first year in Milwaukee.
This power display, which was produced with long balls from Renteria, LaRoche, Giles, Andruw Jones, Langerhans and Brayan Pena, set a new Atlanta record. The previous high was the seven home runs the club hit on Aug. 3, 1967, against the Cubs at this same oft-hitter-friendly park. Homering at Wrigley that day were Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Tito Francona, Clete Boyer and Denis Menke.
"Who ever expects to hit eight home runs?" Cox asked. "But you would take the bet that there would be eight home runs on a day like this."
All of the power nearly went for naught when the Cubs constructed the game-tying four-run ninth. Cormier allowed two singles and recorded an out before giving the ball to Reitsma, who squandered the four-run lead after facing just three batters.
Reitsma induced a Ronny Cedeno grounder that hit off third baseman Wilson Betemit's glove and went into left field for an RBI double. Reitsma's troubles against left-handed hitters resumed when switch-hitting Neifi Perez planted a two-run triple off the top of the right-field wall. One batter later, a Freddie Bynum chopper to the left of the mound scored Perez with the tying run and gave the Braves closer his fourth blown save in 12 opportunities.
"There's no excuses," a distraught Reitsma said. "The door has to be slammed right there. I've got a lot to work on right now. But I'm glad we won."
This marked the fourth time the bullpen has blown a save opportunity when John Smoltz was in position to get a win. The right-hander, who tweaked his left hamstring covering second base in the second inning, allowed eight runs -- six earned -- and 10 hits in six innings. While not impressive, it seemed good enough on this day.
"It was the strangest game," Smoltz said. "I'm glad we're talking about a win and not how in the world we lost it."
Smoltz struggled with his control while surrendering four runs in the first inning. He injured the hamstring while stepping awkwardly on the bag while covering first base in the second inning. But the ailment didn't cost him again until the sixth, when the Cubs tallied three more runs.
Perez hit a grounder to the right side to begin the sixth inning and reached safely when Smoltz dropped LaRoche's toss. The veteran pitcher then allowed back-to-back hits and, four batters later, had allowed the Cubs to pull within 11-8.
After the game, Smoltz admitted he let his frustrations get the best of him. He was certain LaRoche was going to go to the bag himself and prevent him from having to put more stress on his leg by running to first base.
"For the first time in a long time, I got really mad, and that probably affected my pitches," said Smoltz, who is hopeful the hamstring won't prevent him from making his next start on Friday against the Diamondbacks.
Most of Atlanta's home run damage came against Jae Kuk Ryu, who in his first Major League start allowed four home runs and seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings. He surrendered three of those long balls in the second inning, which featured Giles' three-run shot.
Renteria, who had four hits, Jones and LaRoche all went deep in the sixth inning. Pena's shot off Roberto Novoa to begin the seventh inning gave him his first career home run.
"Everything that could happen happened in this game," Smoltz said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.