Cubs-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens has been sharp in his two outings since returning from the minors.

The Chicago Cubs are hoping for similar results from Chris Volstad, who is closing in on the one-year anniversary of his most recent major league victory.

The Cubs, winless in Volstad's eight starts this year, try to extend their longest winning streak of the season to five games Tuesday night against Jurrjens and the struggling Braves.

Chicago (30-49) still has one of the worst records in the majors, but with Monday's 4-1 victory in Atlanta the team won for the sixth time in seven games.

"The way we're playing right now is exciting," winning pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "It's solid all around."

The Cubs, who had six wins in their previous 22 games before this stretch, can attribute their turnaround to some solid starting pitching and the arrival of prized prospect Anthony Rizzo.

Chicago has yielded three total runs during its four-game winning streak, and Rizzo hit his second homer Monday. The 22-year-old first baseman is 7 for 23 (.304) with five RBIs in six games.

"It definitely hasn't hurt," Samardzija said of Rizzo's promotion from the minors. "Rizzo's presence in our lineup has been big, a big left-handed hitter."

While the Cubs are starting to play better baseball, the Braves (41-38) have lost four of five to drop five games behind NL East-leading Washington.

Brian McCann has been slumping mightily, going 1 for 19 in his last five games to see his average drop to .224, and he was moved down to seventh in the batting order Monday.

McCann, who was left off the NL All-Star team for the first time since his rookie season in 2005, could have another tough night Tuesday considering he is 4 for 24 against Volstad.

Although Volstad (0-6, 7.46 ERA) has had McCann's number, he hasn't enjoyed much other success lately. He has made 19 starts since his last victory, which came with Florida against Houston last July 10, and he was sent to the minors May 18 after yielding at least four runs in seven consecutive starts.

The right-hander wasn't particularly impressive in his eight outings for Triple-A Iowa, going 2-3 with a 4.44 ERA, but Chicago needed to fill the void left after Randy Wells was outrighted to the minors. Volstad said his "whole attitude has changed."

"I had some things I needed to work on and things I needed to iron out," he told the Cubs' official website. "I've done it before, but this time was different."

Jurrjens (1-2, 6.07) was an All-Star last year, but got off to such a dreadful start this season - 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four outings - that he was sent to the minors on April 24.

The time at Triple-A Gwinnett seems to have done the trick. After allowing a run and three hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-1 victory at Boston on June 22, the righty gave up two runs and six hits Thursday in 5 2-3 innings of the Braves' 3-2 loss to Arizona.

"I was trying to have fun, keep my team in the game," Jurrjens said.

He is 1-1 with a 2.59 ERA in four career starts versus the Cubs.

Volstad is 0-2 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts against the Braves since last beating them Aug. 27, 2010.