The Cubs are bad. Very bad. In fact, the Cubs are the worst team in baseball with the lowest win total and road record in the game. I will accept no excuses in this series. Anything less than a 3/4 series win against this dreadful squad will be an abject failure in my eyes. These are the kinds of series that you absolutely must take advantage of when you're heading into a long summer fight. Here are your matchups:
Game 1: Samardzija v. Hanson
Game 2: Volstad v. Jurrjens
Game 3: Maholm v. Delgado
Game 4: Garza v. Minor
Hanson is pitching at the top of his game right now. He managed a perfect 5-0 June with a 4-0 decision record and a 3.13 ERA. Samardzija is a punk who the baseball gods are punishing for his punkishness at the beginning of the season. He is the exactly opposite of Hanson with an 0-5 June, a 0-4 decision record, and a 10.41 ERA on the month. Couldn't happen to a better guy in my opinion. The last time Samardzija faced us in Atlanta, he walked away with a 5-1 win. Hanson will be out for revenge in this game.
JJ has only given up 3 runs in 2 games since his return from AAA. The problem is we weren't hitting for him in his starts, so what should have been 2 easy wins turned into a split. HOWEVER, Volstad is a trainwreck on the mound. He's sporting an 0-6 record with a 7.41 ERA. Braves hitters are slugging .448 against him, including some outstanding work by Heyward who's gone .333 against him with 2 bombs. This matchup is a heavy favorite for us, and a must win in this series.
Delgado v. Maholm is an irrelevant pitching matchup in my eyes. Maholm has been terrible in June with a 5.18 ERA, but he salvaged a complete disaster with an 8 inning shutout against Houston in his last outing. That means nothing to me because Houston is just as terrible as the Cubs at the plate. Flipside, Delgado has also been terrible in June with a 4.38 ERA and a 1-3 record. This game will be completely about the lineups, and their ability to take care of business. In my mind, this is the most likely game to lose if the bats go cold under the Curse of Delgado.
The anchor game has Minor in it, so you'd think I'd hate the matchup. I'm going to shock you. I think we have a distinct advantage in this game. For one thing, the Braves have a career .348 average off of Garza, with Michael Bourn hitting almost .600 off the kid in 17 ABs. Second, 3 of Garza's 6 losses came in June, and he's probably not going longer than 6 innings against us. Third, the Cubs bullpen is 11th in the NL with a 4.48 ERA. We can take advantage of them if we can run starters earlier in the games. As for Minor, if you throw out the interleague crap, he was 2-0 against NL opponents in June. He kept the games managable even if he wasn't good. That's all we'll need if we can get Garza on tilt.
Some other stats to compare for us and the Cubs on this season. The Cubs batted .243 in June for 11th spot in the NL, while Atlanta hit .264 on the month tying us for 5th. The Cubs were 13th in slugging, Atlanta was 9th. The Cubs were also 15th in on base percentage for June, just ahead of the struggling Dodgers. Simply put, the Cubs are not a good offensive team right now. Nor are they a good pitching team. With a 4.59 team ERA in June, the Cubs ranked 12th in the NL, while Atlanta was 4th with a team 3.43 ERA.
Everything stacks up in our favor for this series. Hitting, pitching, and fielding? All Braves. The only thing that doesn't go in our favor is our crappy home record. I'm hoping we turn that around this time, and we FINALLY strike for a win on Monday.