Series Preview: Cubs at Braves, April 26 - April 28, 2022

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Series Preview: Cubs at Braves, April 26 – April 28, 2022

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs did not take advantage of the easy stretch in their schedule, and now they face an absolute gauntlet starting with three on the road against the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves haven’t gotten off to a great start – and Ronald Acuña Jr. won’t be back in time for this series – but they’re still the Braves. They’re still a good team. And it’s still their home ballpark.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (7-9) just dropped 3 of 4 to the Pirates at home ahead of their toughest stretch on the first-half calendar. Cool. The Atlanta Braves (7-10) are sitting at a similar record overall, and just dropped 4 of 6 to the Marlins and Dodgers, after splitting a four-gamer with the Padres.

Hot or Not and What to Watch

Nico Hoerner has been on a bit of a tear here lately, with eight hits in last three games. Overall, he’s slashing .327/.340/.469 (133 wRC+), and he’s doing so in sustainable ways:

Ian Happ’s 14.0% walk rate is 29th highest in MLB and is helping support his obscene .439 OBP (9th highest in MLB). But it’s not just patience propping him up; Happ is also hitting .333 this season with just enough power to rank as one of the top 34 hitters in baseball by wRC+ (162 wRC+). Generally speaking, Happ is missing a little bit of his usual power, but he did hit a homer on Sunday and the overall profile is obviously very bright. Even his strikeout rate is under 20%!

Keegan Thompson has not allowed an earned run over his first 13.2 innings pitched this season. No other pitcher in MLB can say as much (though the Cubs have helped Pirates reliever Wil Crowe get awfully close: 0.00 ERA over 13.1 IP!).

After a tiny little baby slump, Seiya Suzuki has notched five hits, including two doubles, in his last three games with just two strikeouts. He’s still on a heater, and is one of only seven players with a wRC+ still up over 200: Mike Trout, Ty France, Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, J.P. Crawford, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are the others.

Matt Olson started his Braves career off like a rocket ship, laying down 19 hits (5 doubles, 2 HRs) and 11 walks in his first 53 PAs (263 wRC+). But in his last 23 plate appearances, he’s got just 3 hits (all doubles), two walks, and six strikeouts, which amounts to just a 44 wRC+. In other words, he’s hit a little wall here. Let’s hope it continues through this week.

By contrast, Austin Riley has eight hits including three doubles and two homers in his last five games. He’s got an average exit velocity of 93.4 MPH this season. That is very, very strong.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Tuesday, April 26 at 6:20 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Wednesday, April 27 at 6:20 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Thursday, April 28 at 6:20 CT on MARQ, MLBN, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Marcus Stroman (R) vs. Max Fried (L)
Game 2: Mark Leiter Jr. (R) vs. Charlie Morton (R)
Game 3: Drew Smyly (L) vs. Kyle Wright (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Frank Schwindel
•   2B – Nick Madrigal/Jonathan Villar
•   3B – Patrick Wisdom/Jonathan Villar
•   SS – Nico Hoerner
•   LF – Ian Happ
•   CF – Jason Heyward
•   RF – Seiya Suzuki
•   DH – Rafael Ortega

Alfonso Rivas? Hopefully?

Unavailable: Clint Frazier, Wade Miley, Andrelton Simmons, Alec Mills, David Bote, Adbert Alzolay, Brad Wieck, Codi Heuer

Atlanta Braves

•   C – Travis d’Arnaud
•   1B – Matt Olson
•   2B – Ozzie Albies
•   3B – Austin Riley
•   SS – Dansby Swanson
•   LF – Orlando Arcia
•   CF – Adam Duvall
•   RF – Eddie Rosario
•   DH – Marcell Ozuna

Unavailable: Ronald Acuña Jr., Kirby Yates, Mike Soroka, Jay Jackson, Luke Jackson

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: +19
Braves: -14

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 5.25
Braves: 4.00

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 4.06
Braves: 4.82

Author: Michael Cerami

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