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Series Preview: Cubs at Braves, July 17 – July 19, 2017

Series Previews

Well, well, well.

The Cubs traded for a cost-controlled starting pitcher over the break, and that very same pitcher completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Do things ever go that well in real life?


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In any case, it’s important to press on, because three wins in a row only puts the Cubs a game over .500 and 4.5 back of the Brewers. It’s certainly a great start, but the job is far from over. Now, the Cubs will turn their attention to the Atlanta Braves for three more games on the road, before returning to Wrigley Field to face the Cardinals and White Sox at home.

Although it’s just a brief five-game home-stand, the Cubs will still be around Chicago for quite some time. After those two Wrigley series, they’ll face the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate and the Brewers at Miller Park. Hopefully, the team can capitalize from a couple of weeks in familiar territory.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (46-45) just swept the Baltimore Orioles in three straight on the road, and are, once again, back above .500. They haven’t been able to put much distance between themselves and .500 this season, but the spirits are high after a big series victory.


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The Atlanta Braves (45-45) are coming off a sweep of their own and are actually only 0.5 games behind the Cubs. Of course, trailing the Washington Nationals (55-36) in the East makes things a bit more complicated than it does in the NL Central.

Location: SunTrust Park

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, July 17 at 6:35 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, July 18 at 6:35 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, July 19 at 11:10 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Jon Lester (4.25 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 2.97 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (5.20 ERA, 5.66 FIP, 4.54 xFIP; 2.87 K/BB)
  • Mike Montgomery (4.01 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 4.38 xFIP; 1.62 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  6. Ian Happ, CF
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher

Atlanta Braves

Starters:

  • Julio Teheran (4.79 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 5.25 xFIP; 1.88 K/BB)
  • Sean Newcomb (4.26 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 4.19 xFIP; 2.14 K/BB)
  • R.A. Dickey (4.08 ERA, 4.97 FIP, 5.07 xFIP; 1.74 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Ender Inciarte, CF
  2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 3B
  4. Matt Kemp, LF
  5. Nick Markakis, RF
  6. Matt Adams, 1B
  7. Tyler Flowers, C
  8. Dansby Swanson, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

In the four starts from June 13 to June 29, Jon Lester was on a bonafide hot streak: 2.42 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 3.19 xFIP. He was striking batters out at a 28.3% clip while walking just 6.1% of the guys he faced, while opposing batters were doing nothing (.183 AVG).


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In his two starts since that four-game streak, Lester has gone HARD in the other direction: 14.29 ERA (10.03 FIP), 16.2 K%, 10.8 BB%, and, an LOL-worthy .455 batting average against. Hopefully he rights the ship quickly, because he has to keep the good times rolling.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Where to start.

Willson Contreras has been by stat-crush since the beginning of June, but we have a full post coming out on him soon. For now, take this tweet as a bit of a tease:

A lot of people like to point to Kyle Schwarber’s fantastic .273/.360/.682 slash line since returning from Triple-A Iowa, but if you want, you can really track that all the way back to June 7 and still be thrilled. During those 68 plate appearances, Schwarber has slashed .237/.338/.593 with 5 homers and six doubles. That’s good for a fantastic 137 wRC+.

You know who else is having a nice streak? Ian Happ. Since his four-hit performance on June 22, Happ’s slashing .305/.345/.488.

You know who else had a four-hit performance on June 22 and is hot right now? Addison Russell: .268/.328/.500 in last 61 plate appearances.


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I can go on and on … so I will.

Since June 6, Jason Heyward is slashing .292/.346/.458 with four doubles, a triple, and a homer and a tiny 12.7 K%. The offense is clicking and I didn’t even name the Cubs’ best two hitters.

Atlanta Braves – Pitching

Although he’s got the worst ERA and peripherals of the bunch, I think I’m most nervous about tonight’s Braves starer, Julio Teheran, who has found himself in the rumor mill. Teheran has a nice pedigree and a lot of upside, which means he’s one of those pitchers who could (and sometimes does) have one random gem in the middle of an otherwise mediocre season.

His last time out, for example, was a 7.0 inning four-hit shutout against the freakin’ Washington Nationals. And he went 6.1 innings, allowing just 2 earned runs, in the start before that. So, you know, be prepared for something better than the stat line shows you.


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Atlanta Braves – Offense

The Braves lineup has some really big names in it, although they’re a bottom-ten team by wRC+ overall. Among their qualified hitters, just Matt Kemp (113), Brandon Phillips (104), and Ender Inciarte (102) are above average, though each is far from an intimidating hitter.

Brandon Phillips is still the same guy he was on the Reds: very few walks (4.4%), but also few strike outs (12.7%). He mostly uses his athleticism and high ground ball rate to create a high BABIP (.317), and, thus, batting average: .291.

In fairness, the Braves do have two other hitters to note in this space.

Although the Cardinals dumped him after a struggle earlier this year, Matt Adams has done nothing but rake since coming over to the Braves: .291/.335/.609.

And then there’s new third baseman Freddie Freeman, who has returned from a wrist injury. His season numbers are insane – .335/.442/.723 – but we’ll see if he feels any ill-effects.

They may have a similar record, but on-paper, the Cubs are the much better team. Let’s see if they can keep the good times rolling.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.