Jarred Kelenic homers, AJ Smith-Shawver works 4 1/3 strong innings as Braves top Cubs 3-0

CHICAGO (AP) — Jarred Kelenic hit a solo homer, rookie AJ Smith-Shawver worked 4 1/3 three-hit innings in his first start of the season and the Atlanta Braves topped the Chicago Cubs 3-0 on Thursday.

The Braves have won two straight games and three of four after a four-game skid.

Smith-Shawver, one of Atlanta’s top pitching prospects, combined with five relievers for a four-hitter as the Braves posted their major-league best eighth shutout. The 21-year-old right-hander, recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett for the game, struck out four and walked two.

The rookie made five starts in three call-ups last season. This time, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Shawver had command of an expanded repertoire, including a fastball, curve and changeup. He also has a slider, but didn't throw one against the Cubs.

“The secondary stuff was a little better than what I was expecting, quite honestly,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The fastball has been a really good pitch, but in control and he was good, very impressive.”

Smith-Shawver said he was just more confident and composed this year. The game seemed a little slower to him, too.

“I definitely feel like I can get the job done here and confident in my stuff,” he said. “It's just about getting opportunities and trying to make the most of them.”

Dylan Lee (1-1) followed Smith-Shawver and struck out one in one inning for the win. Raisel Iglesias pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save.

After Max Fried pitched a complete game in a 9-2 win on Wednesday, Snitker's bullpen was ready.

“What Max did last night was huge,” Snitker said. “It allowed us to win the game today.”

Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna drove in runs in the eighth off Kyle Hendricks, who made just the second regular-season relief appearance of his 11-season career. Albies singled and Ozuna had a sac fly off the 34-year-old right-hander who was moved to the bullpen this week after going 0-4 with a 10.57 ERA in seven starts.

Ozuna went 0 for 2 with a walk and his 15-game hitting streak was halted.

Ben Brown tossed four scoreless, one-hit innings in his fifth start and 12th appearance on a bullpen day for the Cubs. The 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out six and walked two.

Hayden Wesneski (2-3), the first of three Chicago relievers, allowed Kelenic's third homer of the season and took the loss.

“It was a quiet day,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “And the balls we did hit hard, they were hit in the wrong place or at the wrong trajectory. Ultimately, we didn't do enough offensively.”

Smith-Shawver was relieved by Lee after 87 pitches. The rookie made five starts in three call-ups last season. The Braves had optioned right-hander Daysbel Hernandez on Wednesday to make room on the roster for him.

Kelenic went deep to lead off the fifth and put Atlanta ahead 1-0. Kelenic turned on a Wesneski's 3-1 pitch and his third homer reached the right-field bleachers despite traveling into a strong wind off Lake Michigan.

“It was howling” Kelenic said. “I thought that ball was going to go a lot further than it did. I saw it bounce and it barely went out.”

Hendricks allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in the eighth as the Braves made it 3-0. He yielded two more singles in a scoreless ninth.

The wind and bright, cloudless sky at Wrigley challenged the Braves’ fielders.

Second baseman Ozzie Albies lost Seiya Suzukzi’s pop in the third and it fell for a single. All three outfielders had difficulty tracking the ball, leading to several awkward catches.

UP NEXT

Braves: No starter was named for Friday night's series opener at Pittsburgh. LHP Baily Falter (2-2, 3.53 ERA) pitches for the Pirates.

Cubs: LHP Shota Imanaga (5-0, 0.84 ERA) faces RHP Miles Mikolas (3-5, 5.77) at St. Louis on Friday night. Imanaga's ERA is the lowest through any pitcher's first nine starts since baseball started tracking earned run average in 1913.

___

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb