CHICAGO -- Chris Coghlan homered and the Cubs scored four unanswered runs to rally for a 5-3 victory over the Braves on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Chicago is now three games behind Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card spot in the National League.
"We know that if we're down in the score we're going to come back at some point, and that's part of the confidence, part of the winning attitude," said Cubs catcher Miguel Montero."It feels great."
"We're showing up," Miller said. "We're trying to win ballgames and we're obviously on a little rough streak right now. But hopefully we can turn that around."
Atlanta scored once in the first and twice in the fourth inning off Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks, who lasted five innings. The Cubs' bullpen pitched a combined four scoreless innings and allowed just two baserunners -- both in the ninth inning -- with Jason Motte picking up the win in relief to move to 8-1.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Minimal harm done: In the fifth, the Cubs put more than one runner on base for the first time all day against Miller, but they left with only one run to show for it. Miguel Montero, Jorge Soler and Chris Denorfia all reached base to start the frame before Montero scored on Pedro Ciriaco's errant throw to second on a potential double-play ball. But Miller struck out Addison Russell, walked Dexter Fowler and forced Kyle Schwarber to ground into a double play to end the threat.
You really got to be focused on getting to the top of the ball [against Miller], you can't chase up in the zone," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "It's easier said than done."
Sudden trouble: After encountering just one two-ball count through the first four innings, Miller issued a pair of walks and was burdened by the Ciriaco throwing error before he minimized damage in the fifth. But he was not so fortunate in the sixth, when he walked Anthony Rizzo ahead of the consecutive doubles recorded by Bryant and Montero. Miller was charged with three earned runs and now has a very respectable 3.11 ERA during this winless streak.
"Walks were an issue," Miller said. "The strike zone was a little tight sometimes where I felt I made good pitches. You end up walking guys, and some of them scored. That was obviously a big thing. That was the biggest issue for me tonight, for sure, the walks." More >
Confusing command: Maddon said he wanted to see Hendricks command his pitches well enough to work ahead in counts, and he received mixed results on Friday. Hendricks, allowed 10 baserunners on seven hits, surrendering at least three runs for the third consecutive game. But he issued just one walk across five innings and struck out seven batters, relying on his changeup to get out of jams as opposed to his fastball.
After he gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings his last outing, Hendricks spent time immediately following the game looking at his mechanics and figuring out what wasn't as effective. He was able to settle in after he found himself in jams, stranding seven runners on base to prevent the day from getting away.
"I felt big improvement, that's why it's still a little frustrating giving up three runs there, but in the end, I am happy," Hendricks said. "It felt 100 times better. My arm felt more free, more on line and I made a lot more good pitches. I wasn't expecting it to be 100 percent in the first start after what we've been working on, but hopefully we can turn it around quick."
Rare contributions:Nick Markakis highlighted his 40th multihit game of the season with a two-run fourth-inning double that gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead. This marked just the fourth time during his winless streak that Miller received at least three runs of support while he still had the potential to earn a win. More >
"Good for him, man. We might convert him as a starter next year." -- Montero, on Motte's eighth win (which the reliever made sure to announce to his teammates, Hendricks added)
"It's a tough road trip going to the West Coast and then back here. But it is what it is, we just need to keep battling. We can't take anything for granted, have good at-bats, play defense and score as many runs as we can for these pitchers. We've been coming up short, but you can't say we're not trying." -- Markakis, after the Braves dropped to 0-5 on this trip that began in San Diego
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Though he has made a team-high 17 starts during his winless streak, Miller has received a team-low 18 runs of support during this same span. Julio Teheran (42 runs in 16 starts), Matt Wisler (37 runs in 11 starts), Alex Wood (35 runs in 12 starts), Williams Perez (28 runs in 11 starts) and Mike Foltynewicz (25 runs in 10 starts) have all benefited from consistent offense.
Markakis' two-out double came with the assistance of a successful challenge the Braves issued after Ciriaco was initially ruled out while advancing from first to second base on an Andrelton Simmons ground ball in the fourth inning. Second-base umpire Ben May's initial call was overturned after replays showed Ciriaco slid into second base ahead of Bryant's throw.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: Perez will take the mound when Atlanta and Chicago resume this four-game series on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Perez struggled in the first two starts he made after coming off the disabled list on July 31, but he has been more effective in his past two outings.
Cubs: Dan Haren takes the mound for Chicago in the third game a four-game set against the Braves looking to extend beyond the sixth inning. Haren (8-8, 3.63 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer in his last five starts, but he has not lasted more than six innings since June 19. First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 3:05 CT.