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Chicago Cubs: Offensive outburst carries team into series with Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 15: Addison Russell #27 and Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrate after scoring in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 15, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 15: Addison Russell #27 and Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrate after scoring in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 15, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
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After scoring 27 runs in 27 innings over the weekend, the Chicago Cubs enter Atlanta white-hot, winners of three-straight since the All-Star Break.

Averaging a run per inning is a pretty solid way to win ballgames. Against one of the worst pitching staffs ever over the weekend, the Chicago Cubs’ offense went to work. They hit home runs and generated them with some station-to-station ball, as well – a promising sign. Now, they turn their attention to the Atlanta Braves for a three-game set.

Although the attention Sunday centered around Jose Quintana, who made a dazzling Cubs’ debut, another man led the charge this weekend. Willson Contreras. The passionate backstop has been unstoppable at the dish of-late. According to MLB.com, he’s batting 18-for-42 (.429) with three home runs in his last 11 ballgames.

The young backstop, who continues to learn with each passing week, has emerged as an offensive force. If he can maintain his hot streak for the rest of the month, with help from guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs could be primed to make a big move in the standings.

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Chicago (46-45) carries more than momentum into Atlanta this week. The three-game sweep in Baltimore marked the Cubs’ first road sweep of the entire campaign. Now, they have a chance to extend their streak before taking on the division-rival Cardinals at Wrigley this weekend.

Jon Lester takes the ball in Monday night’s series opener. Of course, his last time out, he failed to make it out of the first inning. Before the dust settled in the frame, Chicago was looking up at a 10-0 hole in the final game of the first half.

Facing another struggling starter

So expect Lester to come in with a chip on his shoulder in this one, ready to silence his doubters and keep things rolling. He faces an exciting right-hander in Julio Teheran for Atlanta. The southpaw is yet to figure it all out at the big-league level, but his stuff is often electric.

Teheran hopes his home woes don’t continue. This year, he owns an eye-popping 7.58 ERA at SunTrust Park – serving up over a dozen homers in that span. If there’s one other bat to keep an eye on in the series, it may be outfielder Jason Heyward.

The left-handed-swinging Heyward is in the midst of a four-game hitting streak. With an average pushing .500 during that span, he made solid contact all weekend in Baltimore and will no-doubt look to bring the fire back to his former ball club.

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Anthony Rizzo, pretty much the only Cubs hitter to not get white-hot this weekend, did hit two long-balls against the Orioles. His counterpart across the diamond, Kris Bryant, hit .429 over the weekend, including his hardest-hit home run of his career in the finale.

Keep an eye for the duo to light up Atlanta pitching this week.

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