Atlanta can pull off both feats on Monday when it sends John Smoltz to the mound in the finale of a four-game set with Chicago at Turner Field.
Since these teams first played in 1876, when the Braves were known as the Boston Red Caps and the Cubs were the Chicago White Stockings, the Braves have never gone through a season winning every game against the Cubs. The closest they came to sweeping Chicago in the past 50 years was last season, when Atlanta won six of seven meetings.
The Braves (69-73) have won all six this year, including three at Wrigley Field from May 26-28 as each game was decided by one run. They have outscored the Cubs 17-8 in the first three games of this series.
Lance Cormier struck out a career-high 10 in seven innings to lift Atlanta to a 2-1 win on Sunday.
“That’s what our team’s been doing,” Cormier said. “All the starters have gone out there and battled and we’ve put together a string of good starts, and Smoltz is probably going to keep it going tomorrow.”
If Smoltz (12-8, 3.63 ERA) can improve upon his impressive career record against the Cubs, Atlanta will have its first series sweep since a three-game set against the San Diego Padres from July 14-16.
The Braves are five games behind the Padres for the NL wild card.
Smoltz’s recent struggles haven’t helped the team’s playoff hopes. The staff ace has lost his last two starts, allowing 10 runs and 14 hits with five walks in 11 innings.
Among the NL leaders with 183 strikeouts, the right-hander had fanned at least six batters in 11 straight starts—a stretch during which he was 8-1— before failing to do so in each of his last two outings.
One of his worst starts this year came at Wrigley Field on May 28, when he gave up eight runs in six innings of a 13-12, 11-inning victory. However, he has not lost to the Cubs since July 5, 1992, and has a lifetime 15-4 mark with a 3.09 ERA against them.
He’s won his last six decisions versus Chicago, though the last one came on April 5, 1997.
The Cubs (56-87) have lost four in a row and 18 of 21, including nine straight on the road.
Rich Hill (4-6, 4.83) will oppose Smoltz. The left-hander is currently the Cubs’ oldest starting pitcher at 26, and has been their best lately. He’s given up only three earned runs in 22 1-3 innings over his last three starts.
Hill did not get a decision on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing two runs—one earned—and four hits with a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 7-2 victory.
“He’s more confident,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s popping that fastball inside. Left-handers who can throw that fastball inside are going to be tough.”