Baseball

Series Preview – Braves vs. Cubs: Clearing The Hand Wall

vs.

RECORDS: Braves 46-32   Cubs 42-35

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, WGN Wednesday

BABY DRIVER EXTRAS: Talking Chop

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Julio Teheran vs. Jon Lester

Max Fried vs. Adbert Alzolay

Dallas Keuchel vs. Yu Darvish

TBD vs. Tyler Chatwood

PROBABLE BRAVES LINEUP

Ronald Acuna Jr. – CF

Dansby Swanson – SS

Freddie Freeman – 1B

Josh Donaldson – 3B

Nick Markakis – RF

Austin Riley – LF

Ozzie Albies – 2B

Tyler Flowers – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – CF

David Bote – 2B

Carlos Gonzalez – RF

 

So, you’ve kind of biffed a long homestand, and now you need to ace the last series to have a successful one. Nothing better than having to face the National League’s hottest team to do it, right? The Braves are 16-5 in June, have surged to the top of the NL East and have kind of hid from the Phillies with a 6.5-game gap. So that’s who the Cubs have to grab at least three of four from to claim what they should have from 10 games at the Friendly Confines.

So how did the Braves pull an Easy Goer on the outside in the division this month? Well, pretty much everything. The offense has gone plaid, led by Freddie Freeman, who’s got a 1.157 OPS in the month. Ozzie Albies has recovered from a slow start, and Tyler Flowers has been mashing as well. In fact, the only two regulars who don’t have a .900+ OPS in June are Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. So yeah, that’s six guys tearing the ass off the baseball the past three weeks.

The rotation hasn’t been far behind, though it has some injury issues. Kevin Gausman has landed on the shelf, and Mike Soroka was pulled from his last start. Given that he’s only 21, any tweak to his arm is going to be treated like ebola. Mike Foltynewicz was so bad this year he was sent down. So the Braves have Teheran, Fried, and Keuchel ready to go today and a bunch of questions. The Cubs might see Touki Toussaint slide into the rotation for a bit, depending on how the injuries turn out.

The pen has been a touch rocky. Anthony Swarzak and Luke Jackson have been dominant, with the latter taking the closer’s role. Toussaint has been able to dance through the fire of his nearly five walks per nine, but that won’t last. Beyond that it’s been an adventure. Jacob Webb doesn’t strike many out nor get ground balls, but has a 1.77 ERA. One wonders just how long he can keep that up.

For the Cubs, they’ll give Alzolay his first start in the majors on Tuesday, and give Chatwood a full week before starting again on Thursday. The Cubs don’t have a day off until July 5th, so they’ll likely stick with six starters until then and keep Hendricks on ice until after the All-Star Break. Hopefully this is the start of Bote getting a run at second base with no bullshit breaks for Descalso or Russell. If we can get that, I’ll live with the Carlos Gonzalez experience.

It’s a rough week, because backing up the Braves is probably the other hottest team in the league, non-Dodgers division, in the Reds on the road. They’ve been annoying as fuck for the Cubs as is, so this week shapes up as a nasty test. Let’s get through it.

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