The Atlanta Braves reached the 40-game mark of the regular season in style Monday, gutting out a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs and clinching the National League's best record at the quarter-pole mark.
Obviously, there's no glory for owning the Senior Circuit's best record before Memorial Day weekend, if you don't finish strong in the subsequent months of June through September. But considering how the baby Braves were projected to be at least a year away from flirting with playoff contention, an overall mark of 25-15 looks great from any angle.
The Monday heroes included a cast of expected favorites (Ozzie Albies, starter Julio Teheran) and two castoffs that weren't really major considerations during Spring Training (Jose Bautista, Tyler Flowers).
Albies belted his 13th homer of the season, tying him with for the National League lead with a slew of power hitters (including Bryce Harper). Teheran recorded his fourth victory of the year, despite surrendering a pair of homers and four total runs over six innings. Flowers accounted for one homer and two RBI; and Bautista, who didn't even belong to a major-league club on Opening Day, launched a game-changing, three-run homer off Cubs starter Jose Quintana in the 5th, transforming a 4-3 deficit into a two-run advantage.
The Atlanta relief trio of Sam Freeman, Shane Carle and A.J. Minter preserved Teheran's triumph in the final three innings, but things got a little dicey in the 9th. With Minter on the mound, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out, down two. After a strikeout, the game essentially came down to Minter vs. Ian Happ—the same Happ who crushed a home run on the inaugural pitch of the 2018 season (covering all teams).
The drama escalated after Happ was hit on Minter's 0-2 delivery, bringing the score to 6-5. This allowed one-time MVP Kris Bryant to come to the plate, with the bases loaded, and needing only a solid single to win the game.
On the payoff pitch, Bryant seemingly struck the ball on the meaty part of the bat, but it ended up as harmless line drive to left field.
The Braves, who were making up Monday's game at Wrigley Field from an April rainout, will continue their elongated series with the Cubs (21-17) on Tuesday ... but this time in Atlanta.
The teams' regularly scheduled three-game series remains set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, weather permitting.