Series Preview: Braves at Cubs, April 29 - May 1, 2016

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Series Preview: Braves at Cubs, April 29 – May 1, 2016

Chicago Cubs

braves mascot

The Chicago Cubs sorta swept the Milwaukee Brewers at home this week, and they’ll stay at Wrigley this weekend to try and do it to the Braves, as well.

The Cubs are a little beat up right now, missing, well, Kyle Schwarber (torn ACL, out for the season), Miguel Montero (sore back, 15-Day DL) and maybe even Kris Bryant (sprained ankle, day to day). Still, I can’t imagine the Braves are too excited to come to Chicago.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs are currently 16-5 , after taking two of three from the Brewers and three of four from the Reds. In fact, they’ve only lost one series this year (Rockies) and have won three straight since.

The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, well they’re basically the opposite of the Cubs. At 5-17, the Braves are the worst team in baseball by a long shot. They lost nine in a row to start the season, had a short four game winning streak, and then lost eight in a row before winning yesterday against the Red Sox. They’ve lost all but one series this year.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 29 at 1:20 CT on CSN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, April 30 at 1:20 CT on CSN, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, May 1 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

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



  • Jon Lester (1.98 ERA, 3.39 FIP; 4.60 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (4.97 ERA, 3.22 FIP; 4.50 K/BB)
  • Jason Hammel (0.75 ERA, 2.52 FIP; 2.44 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Jason Heyward, RF
  3. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Kris Bryant, 3B (maybe)
  6. Jorge Soler, LF
  7. Addison Russell, SS
  8. David Ross/Tim Federowicz, C
  9. Pitcher

Atlanta Braves


  • Aaron Blair (5.06 ERA, 3.86 FIP; 0.50 K/BB)
  • Julio Teheran (4.60 ERA, 4.74 FIP; 2.27 K/BB)
  • Matt Wisler (4.26 ERA, 4.72 FIP; 2.71 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Nick Markakis, RF
  2. Daniel Castro, 2B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Adonis Garcia, 3B
  5. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  6. Jeff Francoeur, LF
  7. Erick Aybar, SS
  8. Mallex Smith, CF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Last time out against Cincinnati, Jon Lester threw seven innings, giving up just one run on five hits and a walk. Indeed, he’s thrown at least seven innings in three of his four starts (6 IP in the other one) and has let up just 18 hits in his 27.1 innings of work.

John Lackey, on the other hand, lasted 5.2 innings his last time out, yielding six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. In other words, he didn’t look nearly as sharp as the outing before, in which he struck out eleven Cardinals on the strength of 22 whiffs.

In his last five games, Dexter Fowler has “cooled off,” a bit, slashing .273/.346/.455. That slash is a good deal closer to his true talent level, but frankly, you take that from your leadoff hitter any day of the week.

Don’t look now, but on the season, Javier Baez is hitting .308/.333/.462 with a sub 30% strikeout rate, two stolen bases and a home run – albeit in just 27 plate appearances. If he continues this trend, he may draw more and more starts at the expense of Jorge Soler.

It’s obviously a bummer that Kris Bryant might be out for a short while, but you’ll feel worse about it when you realize how hot he’s been. Over his past five games, Bryant has slashed .353/.500/.529 with a 13.6% walk rate and an 18.2% strikeout rate (without any home runs). Hopefully, he makes a quick return, and picks up right where he left off.

Are you ready to laugh?

Last five games:

  • Jason Heyward: .318/.400/.409 (12.0% BB-rate, 16.0% K-rate)
  • Addison Russell: .313/.500/.625 (27.3% BB-rate, 9.1% K-rate)
  • Anthony Rizzo: .313/.522/1.000 (30.4% BB-rate, 13.0% K-rate)
  • Ben Zobrist: .389/.542/.611 (25.0% BB-rate, 4.2% K-rate)
Pretty much the only Braves starting pitcher that has been any good this season is Jhoulys Chacin …. Unfortunately – for the Braves – he pitched yesterday, so the Cubs will not face him this weekend.

Instead, they’ll get Aaron Blair, who has only made one start this year; Julio Teheran who, despite being relatively well regarded, has a 4.74 FIP and an 8.6% walk rate; and Matt Wisler who has given up seven walks, twenty hits and four home runs in his 25.1 IP this season.

Also coming in to Wrigley feeling cold is Erick Aybar. Since last Friday, Aybar has slashed just .136/.136/.136 with a 0% walk rate. Joining him in Alaska, is Adonis Garcia who has slashed .290/.313/.290 with a 3.1% walk rate. These Braves do not like to walk. In fact, their 8.5% walk rate, while generally middle of the pack, is a full 5% points lower than the Cubs (13.5%).

But it isn’t all frigid in Atlanta. Freddie Freeman comes in scorching hot over this past week, with a .393/.433/.571 slash line. And he’s joined by Nick Markakis, who’s been hitting .310/.412/.370 slash. If the Cubs pitchers can avoid making mistakes to these two hitters, they should be mostly fine, this weekend.

Previous Series Review (Cubs v. Brewers):

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami