When the Braves set out on their recent road trip, no one envisioned they would finish 6-3 on the nine-game trek after dropping two of three to the Nationals.
But the Braves stole two games from the Mets before sweeping the Marlins in three games, watching Dan Uggla continue his hot ways, extending his hitting streak to 31 games with a first-inning, two-run single Wednesday evening.
Now, with the Braves set to take on the Cubs with all eyes in Braves Country turned to Atlanta, as the organization will retire Bobby Cox’ jersey before Friday night’s first pitch.
A member of the Braves for 27 years, Cox is most known for being thown out of ballgames after arguing with upmpires, as well as taking the 1991 club to the World Series, a postseason that began a stretch of 14 consecutive division titles, a World Series Championship in 1995, five NL pennants and a Wild Card berth in 2010, just before he retired.
After the pregame ceremonies at Turner Field have concluded, Mike Minor (1-2, 4.85 ERA) will take the mound for the Braves, taking on the Cubs for the second time in his career. While his previous outing was last August at Wrigley Field, Minor struck out 12 Cubs in 6 innings as the Braves took a 16-5 victory that day. In his previous outing, Minor allowed 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Mets, giving up 7 hits and striking out 5 while taking a no decision.
Taking the mound for the Cubs, who have won 9 of their last 11 and five straight on the road, will be Carlos Zambrano. The fiery right-hander went 6 innings and gave up 3 runs over 6 innings against the Reds in his previous outing in an 11-4 Cubs win. In his previous 10 outings against the Braves, Zambrano (9-6, 4.46 ERA) has gone 0-4 with a 6.24 ERA, including the 2010 season opener where Zambrano was chased after 1 1/3 innings, giving up 8 runs on 6 hits, including a 3-run homer to Jason Heyward in his first MLB at bat.
In Saturday’s contest, Derek Lowe (7-10, 4.78 ERA) will toe the slab for the Braves opposite Randy Wells.
Lowe worked 6 innings Monday night in Florida, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits through 6 innings in an 8-5 Braves win. While Lowe looked sharper Monday than he has in recent starts, the veteran has seen the Braves drop 6 of his previous 10 outings.
Wells (3-4, 6.05 ERA) will be looking to continue the Cubs hot streak of late, as well as notch another win on his own total. After watching his teammates drop 5 straight starts, Wells has seen the club split his last four, including a 8-7 loss to the Reds Sunday night, where he went 7 innings, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits.
Wrapping up the series Sunday for the Braves will be Brandon Beachy, while Matt Garza takes the ball for Chicago.
Beachy (5-2, 3.43 ERA) has seen the Braves win his last three starts after dropping the prevous four, and will be looking to improve on that mark. In his most recent outing Tuesday, the rookie right-hander went 6 2/3 innings, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits while striking out 10 as the Braves needed extra innings to take a 4-3 win.
Like Wells, Garza has seen the Cubs split his last four decisions, as he will be looking to quiet the Braves bats. Against Washington Tuesday, Garza allowed 3 runs on 6 hits over 6 innings while striking out 9, but the Cubs fell, 3-1.
Offensively, Dan Uggla is 1-for-9 against Zambrano, but look for Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman to set the table for the second baseman. Bourn will be playing in his first game as a Brave at Turner Field, as the Braves take on the Cubs for the first time this season.
Freeman sat out Wednesday’s game after taking a pitch off the inside of his left elbow in Tuesday’s contest, but with an off day Thursday, expect the rookie to be back in Fredi Gonzalez’s lineup. Brian McCann, who is schedule to come off the DL Friday, will make a rehab appearance before returning to the Braves lineup, which may wait until the Braves welcome the Giants to Turner Field Monday.