Reality is starting to set in for the Atlanta Braves. They’re on the verge of ending their streak of 14 straight division titles and continue to remain on the outer fringes of the tight NL wild-card race.
After a grueling road trip where they played three doubleheaders in five days, the Braves (66-73) return to Turner Field to open a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs (56-84) on Friday.
Atlanta went 3-4 on its recent road swing against division rivals, splitting four games with Philadelphia and dropping two of three to the NL East-leading New York Mets.
After winning the series opener with the Mets, the Braves lost both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader, 4-1 and 8-0.
“It was a tough road trip,” said Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who is 0-for-14 over the last four games after a nine-game hitting streak. “Three doubleheaders. It makes you wonder what fate has in store for you.”
Fate doesn’t likely include another trip to the postseason. Atlanta trails New York by 21 games in the division and could be mathematically eliminated from the NL East race this weekend. The Braves are seven games behind San Diego for the wild card.
“We need to do something that we haven’t done all year,” right-hander Kyle Davies said, “which is win 10, 12 games in a row.”
The Braves have had that type of success against the Cubs, however, winning nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams. Atlanta, which is beginning a 10-game homestand, swept Chicago in three games May 26-28 at Wrigley Field.
Tim Hudson (11-10, 4.95 ERA) looks to bounce back from a shaky start and win his fourth consecutive decision when he takes the ball for Atlanta. The right-hander allowed six runs and six hits, including three homers to Ryan Howard, over seven innings of an 8-7 defeat to Philadelphia on Sunday, but didn’t factor into the decision.
Hudson has allowed six homers in his last two starts.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA in his last six outings. He is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.
He’ll face a Chicago club which has won just three of its last 18 games and dropped six straight series. The Cubs lost three of four games at home to Pittsburgh this week, including Thursday’s 7-5 finale.
Angel Guzman (0-4, 7.05) makes his ninth start of the season for Chicago, but is still seeking his first major league win. The rookie right-hander was forced to leave his start on Sunday after 4 2-3 innings because of a cramp in his right forearm. He allowed three runs and three hits in the 7-4 loss to San Francisco, but didn’t receive a decision.
“I’ve had this problem twice in Triple-A because of the humidity and the weather,” said Guzman, who will face Atlanta for the first time. “But the doctors think maybe it’s normal. Cramps happen.”
Guzman is 0-3 with a 18.00 ERA in three road starts this season, allowing opponents to hit .471.
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