CHICAGO -- In many respects, the Chicago Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves in 11 innings Thursday night -- and Friday morning -- was a microcosm of the team's recent struggles: There was some good, some bad, but somehow that key hit or pitch was elusive.
The Cubs now have dropped seven of eight games, and next week's All-Star break can't come fast enough for several reasons.
Perhaps foremost among them is rest. The start of Thursday's game, which was a makeup of a rainout from April 30, was delayed an hour and 35 minutes by rain. With the extra innings and almost fours hours of game time, the Cubs didn't leave Wrigley Field for their flight to Pittsburgh until 1:35 a.m.
Ever the optimist, manager Joe Maddon tried to look at the bright side.
"How 'bout the crowd?" he said. "The place is packed on a makeup game, it gets rained on and everybody hangs on. They eventually had to go home because tomorrow is Friday and people are working."
Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who was roughed up for 10 runs in four innings in his last start last weekend in New York, had a nice bounce-back performance. He allowed two runs on three hits in five innings with the only blemish being a two-run homer by Nick Markakis in the first.
But even Hammel's performance had a dark side. The right-hander had to leave in the sixth inning after walking the leadoff batter when his hand began to cramp, probably a result of dehydration.
"It's frustrating," he said. "That's about all I can say. I felt good today. Save for one mistake, I felt good. A lot of good things on the mound."
Despite being blanked most of the game by Braves right-hander Lucas Harrell, the Cubs rallied for a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. The rally, oddly enough, was started when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were hit with pitches in back-to-back at-bats with two outs and none on.
Hector Rondon came on to close in the ninth, but Markakis -- who entered with just two home runs on the season -- led off with a another blast to tie the score.
After the benches cleared in the ninth when Contreras and Jeff Francoeur started jawing about a close pitch -- no punches were thrown and no one was ejected -- Atlanta pushed across the winning run in the 11th as Tyler Flowers singled off Spencer Patton (1-1) to score Freddie Freeman from second base.
"The bunt right there, I much prefer Addison swinging right there with Candelario on deck and then [Javier] Baez," Maddon said. "Addy's really been a good run producer for us. The tying run was already at second base."
Besides his having to leave early because of the cramping, Hammel was most frustrated by the homer to Markakis.
"I say mistake, but it was the pitch I wanted to throw," Hammel said of the high inside fastball. "It was right where I wanted it. I can honestly tell you I haven't seen him do that and I played with him for two years [with Baltimore]. I haven't seen him do that in a long time.
"I don't know if he knew it was coming or I tipped him off, but for him to do it twice was definitely a surprise because that was what we wanted to do -- finish him hard."
Bryant update: Bryant left the game in the ninth inning after being hit in the left knee. Maddon, though, believes he'll be fine. "He just started getting stiff," the manager said. "I think that's another thing. Just ice it down. It'll be sore but I think he'll be able to play tomorrow."