(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves are hoping their bats will stay alive
during the club's pursuit of a National League East title, as they take
postseason aspirations to Wrigley Field for Friday's opener of a three-game
series against the Chicago Cubs.
The Braves broke out of their offensive slumber with Wednesday's 5-2 win over
the Washington Nationals to close out a three-game series and had scored that
many runs just once in the previous five contests. The Braves erased a 2-0
deficit at Nationals Park, where they took the lead for good with a three-run
sixth inning thanks to a solo home run from Dan Uggla and a two-run blast by
Atlanta's magic number is two and the club can capture its first NL East title
since 2005 with a win Friday coupled by a Washington loss to Miami.
"We knew we had to get this one," Upton told the Braves' website Wednesday.
"We struggled at home (this past weekend against the Padres). We struggled
yesterday in the first two games of the series. This was a big one for us
today and the guys stepped up."
Brian McCann and Jordan Schafer had an RBI apiece for Atlanta, which ended a
three-game slide to win for the fifth time in the past 14 tries. Alex Wood got
the start and gave up two unearned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Kameron Loe posted
the win for getting the final out of the fifth inning. Closer Craig Kimbrel,
who blew a save in a doubleheader on Tuesday, fired a scoreless ninth for his
major league-leading 48th save.
In NL batting news, Braves third baseman Chris Johnson was 1-for-3 and is
three points (.327) behind Colorado's Michael Cuddyer (.330) for the lead.
Johnson is fourth overall in all of baseball.
Paul Maholm will try to help the Braves move closer to a division crown when
he takes the mound against Chicago. The former Cub is 10-10 with a 4.35 earned
run average in 24 starts and is 1-0 in his previous three outings. He did not
record a decision in a Sept. 8 loss at Philadelphia and permitted two runs in
six innings of a 3-2 defeat.
Maholm, who is 4-8 in 15 road starts, has dominated the Cubs in 17 career
starts, going 9-3 with a 5.04 ERA. The Braves are 2-5 in the left-hander's
last seven appearances.
Chicago will try to subdue Atlanta's title plans when the club opens its final
homestand of the season, a six-game residency versus the Braves and Pittsburgh
Pirates. Chicago is 29-46 at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs went 4-7 on their season-long, 11-game, 11-day, three-city road trip
through Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, and stopped a five-game losing
streak with Thursday's 5-1 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. Starting
pitcher Jake Arrieta delivered seven innings of one-run ball, five strikeouts
and one walk, and said he felt good afterward.
"I told (pitching coach Chris Bosio) after the game, I feel like I just threw
my pregame 'pen, and I could've gone another 100 pitches," Arrieta said on the
club's website. "That's how good I felt today as far as controlling the game
and my effort."
Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.
Chicago's offense received home runs from Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz and
Brian Bogusevic, while Logan Watkins and Anthony Rizzo ended with three hits
apiece in the win.
Scott Baker will make his third start of the season and has posted back-to-
back no-decisions since returning from Tommy John surgery, which caused the
right-hander to miss the entire 2012 campaign. Baker had eight rehab starts
between Single-A Daytona and Single-A Kane County and made his Cubs' debut
Sept. 8 in a 3-1 loss to Milwaukee, holding the visitors to two hits across
five scoreless innings.
Baker then limited the Pirates to a run in six innings of a 2-1 loss at PNC
Park on Saturday and struck out four batters. Baker has never faced Atlanta,
which swept a three-game series with the Cubs from April 5-7 at Turner Field.
The Sports Network