Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Series Preview

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Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Series Preview
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

2:20 pm ET, Friday, Aug. 20 TV: CSN, SPSO

Probable pitchers: Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.62) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 3.92)

4:10 pm ET, Saturday, Aug. 21 TV: FOX

Probable pitchers: Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 3.85) vs. Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.41)

2:20 pm ET, Sunday, Aug. 22 TV: WGN, FSS

Probable pitchers: Randy Wells (5-11, 4.44) vs. Mike Minor (1-0, 3.75)

 

2010 season matchups

This is the second series between the two clubs this season.  They played against each other in the season-opening series in Atlanta.  The Braves took two games out of three with victories of 16-5 and 3-2.  The Cubs avoided the sweep by winning the last game, 2-0.

This weekend series is the last between Chicago and Atlanta in the 2010 season. 

It also means that this will be the last time both managers, Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Bobby Cox of the Braves, will face against each other as managers.  They both earlier this year announced their retirements after this season.  Cox ranks fourth in all-time managerial wins with 2,484.  Piniella ranks 14th with 1,834.

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The Cubs have played 19 times so far this season against teams from the NL East.  They have only won eight with a winning percentage of .421. 

The Braves, however, have won 23 out of 44 (.523) against NL Central teams, but their away-game record is 27-33.

 

Chicago Cubs (50-72)

Notes

The Cubs will end their seven-game homestand with three games against the Braves.  They are going through a very tough schedule.  In the past 2.5 weeks, they have been playing continuously against teams who are in either first or second place in their divisions.

The other clubs they faced were the Cincinnati Reds (0-3), the San Francisco Giants (1-3), the St. Louis Cardinals (2-1), and the San Diego Padres (0-4). 

In that span they lost 11 games out of 14, and in the month of August they have a record of 5-14.

The Cubs will visit the Washington Nationals for a three-game set starting on Monday.  Then, on Thursday, they will enjoy a rare day off, which they have not had since August 5.

The Cubs were just swept by the San Diego Padres, the NL West leaders, in this week’s four-game series. 

It will be weird this weekend to see recently-traded former Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee in a Braves’ uniform and sitting in the visitors’ dugout.  On Tuesday he was acquired by Atlanta.  In return, the Cubs received for three minor league pitchersRobinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick.

Outfielder Sam Fuld was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to fill in Lee’s spot on the Cubs' roster.  He appeared in Thursday’s game, pinch-hitting in the sixth inning.


Offense

The Cubs offense is struggling. 

They were shut down by the Padres pitching staff this week.  They only scored nine runs in four games (2.25 per game) and had a .224 batting average. 

Chicago only hit one home run in the last four games, and it came from second baseman Blake DeWitt.  He hit for .308 (4-for-13) during the current homestand.

The Cubs’ clean-up hitter, Aramis Ramirez, has not scored a run in his past five games and drew only one walk with two RBI.

Xavier Nady, who replaced Derrek Lee at first base, was unable to post the same offensive numbers that Lee did.  He was the starter in the past five games but had only four hits in 16 at-bats (.250) and struck out five times.

Pitching

Ryan Dempster is the Cubs’ most consistent and reliable starter.   Looking for his 12th win of the season Friday, he tied last year’s total victories (11) last Sunday by beating the St. Louis Cardinals.  The right-hander tossed 6.2 innings, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts.  His career-high in wins is 17, which he established in 2008 with the Cubs. 

He is 3-0 in August with an excellent ERA of 1.40.  But his lifetime record against the Braves is not so pretty: 2-11, 4.94.   

Tom Gorzelanny will pitch on Saturday.  He took the loss against the San Diego Padres Monday night and was responsible for five runs in 6.1 innings.  He has not won in last four starts, including two no-decisions.

In his career he made three starts and two relief appearances against the Braves.  He is 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA. 

Randy Wells’ win total has been stuck at five since July 23, when he won 5-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  He has been on the losing side ever since, taking four losses in five games. 

But he pitched a gem in his last outing by limiting the Padres to one run and three hits in seven innings.  He still lost that match because the Cubs did not provide any run support in a 1-0 loss.

He got his first win of this season in the season-opening series against the Braves.  The right-hander shut out the opponents in six innings of work. 

There are some concerns about the bullpen, which is filled with five rookies.  Their recent performances show their immaturity and lack of major league experience. 

For example, James Russell has given up three runs in his last 1.2 innings.  Marcos Mateo has conceded six in 3.1.  Andrew Cashner has choked up four runs in 3.1 (two coming from two wild pitches).  

But it seems manager Lou Piniella has to stick with these youngsters until the end of the year.

 

Atlanta Braves (71-50)

Notes

The Braves are sitting in first place in the NL East, a position they have been occupying since May 31.  Through Friday, they are 2.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. 

They completed a six-game homestand before coming to Chicago, winning both series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (3-1) and the Washington Nationals (2-1).  Their last game was a 6-2 loss to the Nationals.

Chicago is their first destination on a six-game road trip.  They will finish it with the Colorado Rockies in Denver next week. 


Offense

The signing of Derrek Lee came at the right time for the Braves, as their regular first baseman Troy Glaus was inserted onto the 15-day disabled list because of his sore left knee.  Glaus leads the team in RBI (70).

Atlanta-bound Lee will play first base for the Braves some time in this series.  Before the trade, he missed a couple of Cubs games this week because of stiffness in his back.  He had four home runs in his last three games before the injury. 

Lee is batting .251 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI this season.

The Braves also lost their veteran third baseman Chipper Jones.  He was diagnosed with a torn ACL.  Surgery is required, and he is out for the rest of this season.

Martin Prado rejoined the team Monday in Washington after he was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list.  His first game back with the team provided an immediate offensive boost, as he went 3-for-5 and produced two runs with a double.

He leads the team in batting average (.320) and has played third base since his return from injury.  He only played that position four times in 101 games before his trip to the disabled list.

Catcher Brian McCann has 17 home runs this year, best on the team.  His last one was on August 11, a two-run shot off Houston Astros' reliever Jeff Fulchino.

Second baseman Omar Infante has an eight-game hitting streak.  He has hit .424 (14-for-33) in that span.


Pitching

The Braves’ pitching staff is one of the best in the National League.  They are tied for second with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best team ERA (3.42).  They also rank second in hits allowed (969) and in WHIP (1.25).

The Cubs are lucky to be avoiding the two aces in the Braves rotation.  They will not have to deal with Tim Hudson (14-5, 2.15) and Derek Lowe (11-11, 4.32) this weekend.

Friday's starter will be right-hander Jair Jurrjens.  This is his fourth year in the Major Leagues.  He has been limited to 14 starts this year because of injury and was idle in the whole month of May.  The healthy Jurrjens made 34 starts in 2009.

He has limited his opponents to one run in each of his last two starts.  In his last one he struck out seven and issued one walk in seven innings pitched for a 13-1 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field last Sunday. 

He has faced the Cubs twice in his career and has a 0-1 record and a 3.27 ERA. 

Tommy Hanson leads the Braves in strikeouts (137).  Although he has had six quality starts in his last eight outings, he does not have a win in that span.  His last victory came on July 3 against the Florida Marlins.  In between he took three losses and five no-decisions.

Hanson has had only one start in his career against the Cubs.  He lost that one on April 8, 2010.  During the game the right-hander conceded two earned runs in 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Sunday’s starter Mike Minor is a rookie.  He only has had two starts in the majors this season after a recent call-up from Triple-A Gwinnett.  The 22-year-old left-hander made six starts for Gwinnett with a 4-1 record and had an ERA of 1.89.

His first Major League victory came on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.  He completed six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five.

This article is also featured on www.sportshaze.com.

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