The Chicago Cubs look to continue playing well when manager Lou Piniella returns from a four-game suspension Thursday night for the opener of a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Chicago (25-32) beat Milwaukee 6-2 Wednesday to take two of three from the Brewers and improve to 3-1 under bench coach Alan Trammell, who filled in while Piniella was suspended for making contact with an umpire during an argument in a 5-3 loss to the Braves on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Prior to Piniella’s suspension, the Cubs went 2-10 from May 20-June 2.
“It’s over and it’s time to move on,” Piniella said. “There’s plenty of time to make a move, but you don’t make a move unless you stabilize yourself first, and that’s what we really need to do.”
Atlanta (33-27) has lost four of five since winning three straight and took two of three from the Cubs in last weekend’s series that was filled with excitement.
On Friday, Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett got into a physical altercation in the team’s dugout. A day later, Piniella was ejected for arguing with third base umpire Mark Wegner and Sunday the Cubs snapped a six-game losing streak with a 10-1 win in Trammell’s first game as acting manager.
Trammell’s stint ended when Zambrano rebounded to earn the win Wednesday and rookie Felix Pie went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and three runs scored.
Pie, who played in 18 games earlier in 2007, is batting .400 (8-for-20) in four games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa. He went 2-for-5 with two runs scored against Atlanta on Sunday.
Chicago has scored 28 runs in its last four games after scoring 16 during its six-game skid.
Rich Hill (4-4, 2.89 ERA) will try for his first win in over a month for the Cubs on Thursday.
Hill, who is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in his last five starts since winning on May 5, allowed one earned run and four hits in seven innings, but did not factor in the decision in Saturday’s loss to the Braves.
The left-hander allowed four hits in eight stellar innings in a 3-0 win at Atlanta on April 19. He is 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA in three lifetime starts against the Braves.
The Cubs will likely be without third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who left Wednesday’s game in the second inning with a strained left knee. Ramirez, who is batting .299 and leads the team with 13 homers and 39 RBIs, is day-to-day.
“Hopefully, he’ll only be out a day or two,” Trammell said.
Chicago just placed long reliever Angel Guzman on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right elbow. He was 0-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 12 games - three starts.
The Braves lost 7-4 to Florida on Wednesday to drop three of four to the Marlins. Atlanta has scored 13 runs in its last five games after scoring 22 during its three-game winning streak.
“Everybody is trying do too much,” said first baseman Scott Thorman, who had three hits Wednesday.
Johnson is batting .529 (9-for-17) in four games against the Cubs. He was 2-for-3 with a double against Hill in April.
Chuck James (5-4, 3.78) will face Hill and the Cubs for the second straight start. James allowed two runs and six hits in six innings last Saturday, but did not earn a decision.
The left-hander, who has gone six innings in each of his last two starts, is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two career games against the Cubs.
Atlanta leads the season series 3-2. The teams split a two-game set at Turner Field in April.