The Braves look to remain undefeated this season against the Cubs when the teams continue their four-game series at Turner Field on Sunday.
Atlanta (68-73) has won the first two games of the series to close within five games of NL wild card leader San Diego. The Braves entered this season having won 14 consecutive division titles, but are in fourth place in the NL East, 20 games behind the New York Mets.
“We’re making a good run for it,” said Chuck James, the winning pitcher in Atlanta’s 7-4 victory on Saturday. “We’ve got a lot of momentum right now.”
Atlanta won thanks to homers from Andruw Jones, Adam LaRoche and Brian McCann. It was the Braves’ sixth straight win over Chicago at Turner Field since April 11, 2004, and they improved to 5-0 overall against the Cubs this season.
LaRoche, who’s hitting .365 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs in 49 games since the All-Star break, reached 30 homers in a season for the first time in his career.
“I can say it now: 30 was my goal,” said LaRoche, who’s batting .438 with four homers in five games against the Cubs this season. “I’m going to ride it out as long as I can.”
Chicago has lost 17 of 20, falling to an NL-worst 56-86.
“That’s a lot of homers,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “There have been a lot of balls up over the plate. They have a lot of guys who can hit homers. And when they hit homers, they hit them in bunches.
“We’re giving up five, six, seven runs every game. We’re getting hit hard.”
Juan Mateo (1-2, 5.10 ERA) looks for his second major league victory when he starts for Chicago on Sunday. Since beating Arizona 7-3 in his debut on Aug. 3, Mateo has gone 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six games, including five starts.
He’s faced Pittsburgh in his last two starts, but failed to earn a decision either time. The right-hander gave up five runs and six hits in four innings on Tuesday in a 6-5 loss.
This is his first start against Atlanta.
The Braves’ Lance Cormier (2-4, 5.26) looks for his first victory since May. Cormier, who’s bounced between Triple-A Richmond and Atlanta this season, has made only five starts in 25 appearances.
He is 0-3 with a 4.61 ERA in those outings, three of which have come in the last month.
Cormier made his best start of the season against Philadelphia on Sunday, allowing one run and three hits in seven innings of Atlanta’s 3-1 win in 11 innings.
“Cormier was outstanding,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “That’s a tough hitting lineup and he gave them nothing.”
Cormier allowed two runs and two hits in one-third of an inning against the Cubs on May 28. He is 1-0 with 9.00 ERA in two career appearances against Chicago.