Braves are half a game out of first place in the NL East. The Cubs are dead last in the NL Central. Atlanta is 6-4 in their last ten games, and the Cubs are 5-5. Atlanta is 10-6 on the road, and Chicago is 7-9 at home. I'll tell you what, as the winner of 3 straight heading into this series, those numbers already make me excited. We have been very solid on the road this season, and going into Wrigley is a great thing for us. More on that later.
Game 1: Hanson v. Samardzija
Game 2: Delgado v. Dempster
Game 3: Hudson v. Maholm
Hanson had an uuuuuuugly start in Philly in the epic 15-13 finish. Luckily for us, we won that game. Also lucky for us, Hanson almost never has bad back-to-back starts. Let's hope that trend continues. Tommy hasn't pitched in Chicago since 2010, and that was against a completely different Cubs team than the one you see now. Samardzija (heretofore Sammy) has a little history with the Braves, but not much. Bourn is hitting .600 off him, Uggla has a homer in 8 ABs, and Hinske tripled off him in his only look. The rest of the players only have one or two ABs at most. Not really enough to get a feel off of the kid. What we do know is that he's a big 6'5" righty with a 3-1 record, all against top tier teams, and a 3.41 ERA on the season. Sammy loves the strikeout, but he's also a bit wild. He's been tough at home, going over 6 innings in his two games, giving up only one earned run. We need to rattle his cage a little to get him off his game. Bourn is just the guy to do that.
Delgado is still on my list. We've lost all 3 of his last starts, he's posting a 5.14 ERA, and he's a rookie in Wrigley (aka small park). He did have a "good" outing against Philly in that he went 8 innings with 2 runs, but it was wasted since we didn't score. I'm not in the moral victory business. A lot of confidence in our bats comes from confidence in your pitching staff. Right now, Delgado isn't inspiring anybody. Here's the key for Delgado. He can't give up runs in the first two innings. Give the batters some time to believe. Let the Cubs sweat at home. As for Dempster? He's been pitching his ass off, and it's done him no good. Dempster has a 0.95 ERA and no wins. Simply put, the Cubs fielding and lack of production has completely let him down. I see almost no way we can win this game barring an explosive inning or a lot of Cub errors. It's literally our worst starter against their best starter. Add into the fact that Dempster is due, and this is the game I'm least confident about in the series.
Throw out the Colorado game for Huddy. Of the Cubs he's faced, he's holding them to a .152 average. That's good news for us. On the other side, Maholm is a Pittsburgh acquisition who has struggled in his 5 starts for the Cubs with a 5.13 ERA. Uggla, Ross, Prado, and Freeman all have had some big successes against Maholm, and he is ripe for the picking. He's only good for about 6 innings max, and he will walk you if you let him. He's settled down since the Cards and Brewers absolutely raked him. Since he doesn't go deep into games, that means we might get to see a good bit of the awful Cubs bullpen. That, coupled with our Ace on the mound and hot bats, should give us a solid shot at a series win.
Remember when I said playing in Wrigley is good for us? Last season we went 3-1 in Wrigley, scoring 19 runs. Chipper Jones batted .417 in that series. The old man loves that old stadium. Kindred spirits perhaps? In either case, we're going to need the bats to stay hot in order to beat these Cubs pitchers. That, and maybe rely on the fact that the Cubs bullpen has the most losses of any team this season. They loooooooove to blow games. Maybe if the Cubs weren't also 23rd in the MLB in fielding, they might not have blown so many leads.
So tonight, we head to the Windy City for what's sure to be a classic series. Hot bats meet hot starters. What will give? Whatever happens, I know that the Braves chances are dramatically improved if Chipper takes the field.