Braves-White Sox Preview

The Associated Press

While the Atlanta Braves entered the All-Star break with several injury concerns, they are hoping to have three of their top players back when the second half gets underway.

Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman could return Friday night when the visiting Braves open a three-game set against the last-place Chicago White Sox.

With Justin Upton (strained calf), B.J. Upton (strained adductor muscle), Heyward (strained hamstring) and Freeman (jammed thumb) sidelined, Atlanta's lineup appeared almost unrecognizable Sunday in an 8-4 loss to Cincinnati.

B.J. Upton was placed on the disabled list before that game, but the other three could be available Friday.

"Right now, anybody that kind of flinches a little bit or grabs something, you start getting scared," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "The All-Star break, hopefully these four days, we get some guys healthy and start back against the White Sox, start going again.

"You feel good any time your back's up against it like we were, and the other guys respond. I think the best is still ahead of us, offensively."

Leading the NL with 114 homers, the Braves (54-41) own a six-game lead in the NL East.

"Once you get comfortable, that lead's going to be gone or you're going to be shipped somewhere else," second baseman Dan Uggla said. "We're definitely not satisfied. But right now, looking back, we're happy with where we are."

The White Sox (37-55), in contrast, haven't seen much go their way. Chicago has gone a major league-worst 13-31 since May 27 and finds itself 14 games behind AL Central-leading Detroit.

"Not good," manager Robin Ventura said of his team's first half. "The record speaks for itself. Nobody is happy. These will be a good four days for these guys. Just go home and do whatever they are going to do and then come back ready to go. You can go home and clear your mind."

After dropping 13 of 18 before the break, the White Sox will try to bounce back behind John Danks (2-6, 4.31 ERA). The left-hander has recorded four straight quality starts while posting a 2.93 ERA.

"I think I'm on the right track now," he said after allowing three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4, 11-inning win at Philadelphia on Saturday. "I'll be disappointed if it doesn't go right."

Danks yielded three runs in seven innings to beat Atlanta 9-6 on June 22, 2010, in his only appearance in the series.

The Braves will give the ball to Tim Hudson (6-7, 4.02), who has gone 2-3 in his last eight starts despite a 2.48 ERA. The right-hander, though, is looking to win a season-high third consecutive outing after surrendering four runs - three earned - in seven innings of a 6-5 victory over Cincinnati last Thursday.

He's received 17 runs of support in his last two starts.

"Obviously when you get a lead, it's a lot easier to go up there and try to execute pitches and be more aggressive in the strike zone," Hudson said.

Hudson, 2-7 with a 5.19 ERA on the road, has gone 0-3 in four career starts at U.S. Cellular Field while posting a 10.45 ERA - by far his highest mark in any stadium. He hasn't faced the White Sox since 2010.

He's struggled against Adam Dunn, who is 11 for 31 (.355) with four homers in their matchups. Jeff Keppinger has also given him trouble, going 9 for 17.

The White Sox have outscored the Braves 35-19 during a five-game winning streak in the series dating to 2004.