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Cubs-Braves Preview

AP - Sports

The Atlanta Braves aren't getting any better at scoring runs.

But that's not something they've had to worry much about against the Chicago Cubs.

Offensive issues aside, Fredi Gonzalez's club will try for a three-game sweep of the National League's worst team Sunday at Turner Field.

The Braves (20-15) have scored 22 runs while batting .207 in 12 games, but five runs in the first two against the Cubs (12-23) have been enough. They've won three of four after dropping seven straight and continue to find solace in the fact that they've struggled greatly at the plate and remain atop the NL East.

"I don't think we've clicked on all cylinders yet from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, a pitching standpoint," Ryan Doumit said after driving in a run in Saturday's 2-0 win. "I think we're starting to show we can and once we do it's really going to be scary."

The little offense they have had has been helped along by Chris Johnson, who is 8 for 15 in four games to bump his average 36 points to .272.

Atlanta has won six straight home contests against Chicago and eight of nine in the overall series.

Chicago has now lost six of seven, and after seemingly breaking out with 15 hits in Thursday's 12-5 win over the Chicago White Sox, they've started the series in Atlanta with 10 hits in 63 at-bats (.159).

Aaron Harang could benefit from a forgiving assignment as he searches to regain his early season dominance.

Harang (3-3, 2.98 ERA) has come back down to Earth, as would be expected after allowing three earned runs in his first five starts, but he's probably crashed down a bit harder than the Braves would like. He has a 9.28 ERA and .396 opponents' batting average in consecutive losses.

He surrendered four runs - two earned - and nine hits in six innings of Monday's 4-3 loss to St. Louis.

The right-hander has seen plenty of the Cubs in his career, and is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts against them since 2010 with quality starts in each.

He'll be opposed by Edwin Jackson (2-2, 4.57), who is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in five career starts against the Braves.

He is, however, coming off his best start of the season in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to the White Sox, though he wasn't a part of the decision. The right-hander allowed a run and six hits in seven innings, and his nine strikeouts matched his top output since joining the Cubs before 2013.

"This is probably the best game I've thrown," Jackson said. "The game (Monday), (Jeff) Samardzija threw a (great) game. I can't lie and say that didn't give me some extra motivation to follow that up with a strong outing."

He'll once again have the opportunity to be inspired by the Cubs staff ace, who limited the Braves to two hits in six scoreless innings Saturday and got no run support.

Freddie Freeman is 7 for 11 with a two homers, a triple and a double off Jackson while Justin Upton is 6 for 11 with a homer and two doubles. Upton, though, left Saturday's game after being hit by a pitch in the lower back, and Gonzalez said he could miss the finale.

Starlin Castro is 5 for 13 with a home run and a double against Harang.

Cubs catcher Welington Castillo is 1 for 23 in his last seven games while Braves right fielder Jason Heyward is 2 for 21 in six.

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