May 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Moises Sierra (25) slides safely into third base as Chicago Cubs third baseman Mike Olt (30) takes the throw during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs looking to build on last night`s victory in series against the Braves


Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough start to the week against the Chicago White Sox, being outscored 16-5 in the first three games of the Crosstown Cup, the Cubs made sure they weren`t swept with 12 runs and 15 hits in the finale to avoid an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Sox. This was a wonderful way to end a gloomy series, and the Cubs will now travel to Atlanta with hopes of building on their big offensive day.

The Atlanta Braves (18-15) have actually held their own after losing several key players to injuries, and enter the three-game series behind the second-place Washington Nationals, and sitting just one game behind the first-place Miami Marlins, seriously. After losing both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John Surgery, the rotation was widely considered to be in serious trouble.

However, Through 33 games, starting pitching has actually been a strong point on this club, thanks to very nice performances from David Hale (1.76 ERA), Aaron Harang (2.98 ERA), Ervin Santana (2.41 ERA) and Alex Wood (3.00 ERA). Not to mention 22-year-old Julio Teheran and his sparkling 1.80 ERA, as the Braves have certainly gotten great starts from the rotation when they really needed it.

The Chicago Cubs, however, currently are owners of the third-worst record in all of baseball, and have more wins than only the Houston Astros, flying the “W” flag just 12 times through 33 games. The Cubs` offense as a whole enters with just a .300 on-base percentage, leading to a measly .659 OPS. Starlin Castro also seems to be going through a mini-slump, collecting just two hits in 16 at-bats in the four-game Crosstown Cup.

The Braves` early season success couldn`t be possible without Justin Upton, who is doing very Upton-like things, posting an OPS of .975 to go along with nine bombs, already accumulating a 1.6 WAR through just 135 plate appearances. After Upton started out enormously hot then proceeded to fade down the stretch last season, Braves fans will understandably want to see the 26-year-old keep this production going. With a largely unsustainable BABIP of .415, that may be very difficult to do, as luck will start catching up with him.

After a very nice month of April for Welington Castillo, he seems to be coming down to earth a bit, collecting just four hits in 24 at-bats in the month of May. May might not be treating Castillo very well, but Anthony Rizzo just keeps killing it regardless of the calender, collecting nine hits in 27 at-bats with three homers and six walks, raising his 2014 triple slash to all-star levels at .294/.414/.513.

Cubs and Braves fans will get great matchups all weekend, with Jason Hammel (2.43 ERA, 3.77 FIP) facing Julio Teheran (1.80 ERA, 3.93 FIP) tonight at 7:35 ET, Jeff Samardzija (1.62 ERA, 3.05 FIP) in a fantastic matchup against Ervin Santana (2.41 ERA, 2.43 FIP) Saturday night, and then the series finale Sunday at 1:35 ET, featuring Braves` left-hander Alex Wood (3.00 ERA, 3.24 FIP) and former Atlanta division rival with the Nationals, Edwin Jackson (4.57 ERA, 3.16 FIP).

 

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