ATLANTA — Willson Contreras threw one away, then made the tag at home plate to keep the Braves off the scoreboard in the very first inning.
Turns out, the Chicago catcher was just getting warmed up.
Contreras threw out runners at home and third during a wild fifth inning, and the Cubs rallied for two runs in the ninth to stun first-place Atlanta 3-2 on Tuesday night.
"We'll take it," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said.
This one really stung for the Braves, who were coming off a 6-1 road trip that propelled them to the best record in the National League.
They were fuming after two questionable calls on the basepaths in the fifth ruined a potentially big inning.
"We've been winning most of those games," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not going to go your way all the time. We'll be fine."
After Ronald Acuna Jr. broke a 1-1 tie with a mammoth homer in the eighth , the Cubs bounced back against Atlanta closer Arodys Vizcaino. Back-to-back doubles by Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell tied it at 2, and Ben Zobrist came through with a two-out, run-scoring single off Vizcaino (1-2).
Carl Edwards Jr. (2-0) earned the win despite surrendering Acuna's homer over the 400-foot sign in centre field. Brandon Morrow got the final three outs for his 10th save.
Chicago's Yu Darvish returned from the disabled list after a bout with the flu, only to work just four innings because of cramping. Still, his first appearance since May 2 was an encouraging one, given that he was 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his first season with the Cubs.
The only run off Darvish was Ender Inciarte's fourth-inning homer.
"It was really enjoyable going out there," Darvish said through an interpreter. "We have such a strong team. When I look behind me, I see all these star players."
With the game tied at 1 in the fifth, the Braves put runners at first and third with no outs after Javier Baez's throwing error ruined a potential double play.
That's when things really got wacky.
First, Mike Montgomery's pitch skipped past Contreras but caught a fortuitous ricochet off the backstop, bouncing right back to the catcher so he could make a quick throw to Montgomery covering home. The tag caught Johan Camargo on the left shoulder as he made a head-first slide , leading plate umpire Jim Wolf to call him out. The Braves challenged, and at least one replay angle appeared to show Camargo getting his left hand to the plate a split-second ahead of the tag.
After a two-minute review, the call was upheld.
Snitker was irate, screaming and waving his arms in the dugout until Wolf mouthed to him, "Enough."
"There wasn't enough evidence to overturn it, I guess," Snitker said with a shrug.
The manager was angry again when another pitch got away from Contreras, who briefly struggled to find the ball. Charlie Culberson broke for third and appeared to get a foot to the bag before Kris Bryant tagged his ankle, but third-base umpire Sam Holbrook signalled out.
With no more challenges, there was nothing the Braves could do.
"Everybody said he was safe," Snitker said. "It would be nice to have a couple of those challenges."
Mike Foltynewicz struck out 10 in five innings, but also walked five and was pulled after throwing 107 pitches. The Cubs scored an unearned run in the fourth on Kurt Suzuki's throwing error after a strikeout.
Darvish, on the other hand, benefitted from a brilliant defensive play by left fielder Kyle Schwarber in the first, a strange sequence that began after Contreras' errant throw on Freddie Freeman's steal of second deflected off the runner into short left field.
Schwarber swooped in to pick up the ball and the throw landed perfectly in Contreras' mitt just in time to tap Freeman's left foot as he was sliding for home.
There was no doubt about that call.
A ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by the newest coach in Atlanta.
Lloyd Pierce did the honours one day after being introduced by the NBA's Hawks.
The Braves began a stretch where 26 of 40 games will be at home.
That may not be a good thing.
Atlanta is just 8-8 at SunTrust Park, including four straight losses, compared to 17-8 on the road.
Cubs: With Darvish coming off the DL, OF Mark Zagunis was optioned to Triple-A Iowa
Braves: SS Dansby Swanson (left wrist) appears close to coming off the DL. He took batting practice Tuesday and could rejoin the Braves for a weekend series against the Miami Marlins.
Cubs: RHP Tyler Chatwood (3-3, 3.35) will face the Braves on Wednesday night looking for his fourth straight win after beginning the season 0-3.
Braves: RHP Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 5.58) hopes to bounce back from two straight miserable outings. After starting the season with four straight wins, McCarthy has surrendered 23 hits, 14 earned runs and three homers in his last 8 1-3 innings.
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