Rapid Reaction: Braves 7, Cubs 3

ATLANTA -- The Chicago Cubs could only muster a split of the four-game series against the Atlanta Braves after a 7-3 defeat in Thursday’s finale.

HOW IT HAPPENED: This one was over just after it started as Matt Garza gave up a pair of two-run home runs in the first inning. Garza lasted just four innings, in large part due to the fact that he threw 28 of his 94 pitches in two at-bats by the Braves’ Juan Francisco. He gave up five runs on five hits, including another home run from Freddie Freeman in the third inning. Geovany Soto had a fifth-inning home run for the Cubs

WHAT IT MEANS: With scouts on hand to watch him pitch, Garza didn’t do a good job of selling himself to a contender. Garza is one of the more highly regarded starting pitchers available before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He hasn’t been sharp in his last two outings, though, as he has thrown 198 combined pitches and only lasted 9 1/3 innings. He walked three batters for the second consecutive time after not walking more than one over his previous six starts.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Starlin Castro’s offensive slide continued Thursday. He entered with five hits in his previous 35 at-bats (.143) going back to a June 24 game at Arizona. He then went 0-for-4 against the Braves on Thursday and was 2-for-16 in the four-game series. Manager Dale Sveum said he considered giving Castro a day off but had second thoughts, saying Castro’s defense is too valuable to replace.

OFF BEAT: Despite the fact that Garza got Francisco on a ground ball to end the first inning, he still lost the battle. Francisco saw 16 pitches from Garza in the at-bat as he fouled off nine consecutive at one point. The person least interested in the pitcher-hitter duel was the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons, who was on first base. Simmons had to break for second base on 10 consecutive two-strike, two-out pitches. After Francisco eventually grounded out, the bat boy brought an exhausted Simmons two cups of cold water.

UP NEXT: The Cubs will send left-hander Travis Wood (3-3, 3.05 ERA) to the mound Friday in the opener of a three-game series at New York. The Mets will counter with left-hander Johan Santana (6-4, 2.76) in the 6:10 p.m CST start from Citi Field.