ATLANTA — Rookie John Gant only has to look at what happened to the Braves’ bullpen after he left the game to feel better about his first start in the majors.
He kept the game close before the Chicago Cubs bullied the Braves’ bullpen for 10 runs in their 13-2 win over Atlanta on Sunday.
Gant (0-1), making his first start after seven relief appearances, allowed three runs, two earned, in 4 1/3 innings. He gave up four hits with four walks and left the game trailing 3-1.
“He battled through a lot and did a good job of keeping the game there against, obviously, one of the best teams in baseball,” said Braves interim manager Brian Snitker.
Gant, 23, was traded to the Braves from the Mets last season as part of the return for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.
Facing the powerful Cubs in his debut as a starter was a big challenge for the native of Savannah.
“Obviously you can’t be too pleased with the loss but I had a good time,” Gant said. “I had fun out there and I’ll get ready for next time.”
Javier Baez hit a three-run homer off Chris Withrow to cap the Cubs’ six-run eighth inning.
Withrow gave up six runs while recording only one out. Chase Kelly allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Chicago outscored Atlanta 21-4 in winning the final two games of the three-game series.
The Cubs (43-18) have won 14 of 18 and improved to 39-2 when scoring at least four runs. They moved 25 games over .500 with their best record through 61 games since 1907, when they won the World Series.
Jon Lester (8-3) allowed no earned runs on five hits in seven innings. He has allowed only one earned run with no walks in three wins this month, lowering his ERA to 1.89.
“That’s three in a row he’s been outstanding,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “Never tired. His stuff was still good at the end. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now.”
Anthony Rizzo drove in three runs with three hits. David Ross had two hits and also drove in two runs, one on a base-loaded walk from Alexi Ogando in Chicago’s three-run seventh.
Jason Heyward, who began his career with the Braves, had three hits, two walks and scored three runs.
The Cubs matched their season high with four errors. The first of two throwing errors by Ross, on a double-steal by Freddie Freeman and Chase d’Arnaud, allowed d’Arnaud to score Atlanta’s only run in the first inning.
100 TO GO
The Braves (18-44) have the majors’ worst record. It is the franchise’s worst 62-game start since the 1911 Boston Rustlers were 14-48.
UNUSUAL SLIDE RULE CALL
A review determined Ross violated the slide rule — even when he didn’t slide into second base. Ross hit a grounder to first baseman Freddie Freeman, who threw to shortstop Erick Aybar in the sixth inning. Ross ran past the bag as Aybar was forced to alter his throw back to first. The throw was late and Lester initially was safe at first until the review resulted in a double play.
Braves: Aybar came off the 15-day DL and started after missing 14 games with a bruised right foot. IF Daniel Castro was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-5, 2.90), who has allowed no more than two runs in four straight starts, will try to even his record when Chicago opens a series at Washington on Monday night.
Braves: RHP Aaron Blair (0-4, 7.13), originally scheduled to start Sunday before given an extra day to rest, will look for his first win in Monday night’s opening game of a four-game series against the Reds.