Javier Assad delivers 6 shutout innings in Chicago Cubs’ 7-1 win over the Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA — Mike Tauchman wasted no time making sure the Chicago Cubs wouldn’t leave Truist Park without scoring a run.

Then right-hander Javier Assad took care of the rest.

Tauchman’s home run off Braves starter Charlie Morton’s first pitch of the game provided the Cubs their first run in the three-game series and sparked a three-run first inning in which they sent nine batters to the plate. That was all the run support Assad needed in a 7-1 victory.

Assad kept rolling, lowering his ERA to 1.49 behind six shutout innings. He limited the Braves to four hits and walked only one while striking out seven. The 29-year-old righty has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his nine starts, making him the first Cub to accomplish that feat to begin a season since right-hander Bill Hands in 1968.

Assad’s performance to start the season should gain him more attention outside of Chicago, even though he’s not worried about that.

“He goes out there and gives us everything he’s got,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “He battles out there for five-plus innings every time. … I definitely think guys need to start paying attention.”

Assad’s 12 called strikes with his sinker tied a career-high set Sept. 2 against the Cincinnati Reds. He gave the Braves a heavy dose of the pitch, which accounted for 47% of his pitches thrown Wednesday.

“It’s just how good the pitch is,” manager Craig Counsell said. “They had a hard time getting swings off on it really and that’s just a sign of really good movement. It’s a ball until the very end.”

Assad utilized his full repertoire against the Braves, throwing six pitches while showing an increase in velocity. His sinker and cutter were 1 mph faster than his season average. Assad said he has been working to strengthen his shoulder to increase his velocity, which typically sits between 91-92 mph.

“He’s pitching at an elite level really, I mean, this is just exceptional what he’s doing,” Counsell said. “He’s off to a wonderful start and I’m happy for him. … He’s been brilliant so far. He’s been fun to watch, a true pitcher and really making it work.”

Assad, Shota Imanaga (0.96) and the Cubs rotation have carried a heavy load as the organization tries to navigate mounting injuries. The consistency from Assad and Imanaga in particular has played a big role in the Cubs (25-19) staying above .500. They have won 13 of 17 games started by the duo.

Related Articles

“I’m really pleased with just being able to stay healthy, being out there and with the ability just to start in general,” Assad said through an interpreter. “The ability to go out there and pitch every five, six days, just really happy.”

The Cubs finished with 13 hits after combining for only eight in the previous two games. Seven of the starters reached base in the win, with five players recording multihit games, including Pete Crow-Armstrong (single, triple, two RBIs), Cody Bellinger (single, double, walk) and Seiya Suzuki (double, home run).

Suzuki finally caught a break on his home run to center field in the eighth. He entered the game with multiple hard-hit balls during the trip that went for outs, including three that would have been home runs at Wrigley Field, according to Statcast.

As the Cubs return to Chicago for a seven-game homestand against the two teams they just played on the road — the Pittsburgh Pirates and Braves — Suzuki getting hot would go a long way in helping jump-start an inconsistent offense.

“My swing was really good and I felt really good so it was just about staying persistent,” Suzuki said through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “But I’m glad it finally went over.”