Braves-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs' pitching staff has made a quick turnaround following a miserable start, but it might have a difficult test to start this week.

That's because the hot-hitting Atlanta Braves visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series that begins Monday night.

Chicago (11-17) had a 5.13 ERA during its 3-11 start to its first season under team president Theo Epstein, manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio. The Cubs, though, have a 2.76 ERA over their last 14 games and gave up zero runs after the third inning Sunday against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.

That allowed Chicago to rally for a 4-3 win in 11 innings, with Tony Campana hitting a tying double in the ninth and David DeJesus drawing a bases-loaded walk in the final frame.

"It could be a momentum builder for us," DeJesus told the team's website.

The Cubs now try to slow down the Braves (18-11), who scored 29 runs in a three-game sweep at Colorado and have 44 in their last five overall. Freddie Freeman hit an early three-run homer during a 7-2 victory Sunday.

"Guys just seem to be really locked in on what they want to accomplish up there," third baseman Chipper Jones told the team's website.

Freeman is batting .364 with six homers, 14 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs over his last 19 games. He had seven RBIs in the sweep of the Rockies and was 7 for 24 with two homers in seven games last season against the Cubs.

Jones, who was given the day off Sunday, is 9 for 17 with two homers and nine RBIs over his last three games, including a career high-tying five during a 13-9 victory Saturday. After that game, Rockies starter Jamie Moyer accused him of relaying signs to his teammates while on second base, a charge the 40-year-old veteran vehemently denied.

If he's still stinging from that accusation, Wrigley Field is probably one of the last places he would want to visit to feel better. He's a career .219 hitter in 52 games there, but did go 5 for 12 in three games last year.

Jeff Samardzija (3-1, 3.41 ERA) will try to help add to Jones' struggles in Chicago while continuing his recent success. The converted reliever has a 0.63 ERA over his last 14 1-3 innings and gave up one run over 7 2-3 innings during a 3-1 victory in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Samardzija is making his first start against Atlanta, which will seek a season-high sixth straight road win and eighth in its past 10 games at Wrigley.

Tommy Hanson (3-2, 3.74) will try to rebound from a difficult outing while leading the Braves to another win in Chicago.

The right-hander threw 95 pitches over 3 2-3 innings Wednesday against Philadelphia, giving up four runs and eight hits. He's 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA in two career starts versus the Cubs, both in 2010, and gave up five runs over five innings during his only start at Wrigley.

Eric Hinske, 10 for 13 in his last three starts, is a career .192 hitter against Chicago but tripled in his only at-bat against Samardzija. Michael Bourn, seeking to extend a 10-game hit streak, is 3 for 5 versus the Cubs right-hander and has batted .414 in his last 13 games at Wrigley.

The Cubs' Bryan LaHair has reached base safely in 24 consecutive games and is second in the NL with a .390 batting average heading into his first matchup with the Braves.

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