Cubs-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Anthony Rizzo is giving the last-place Chicago Cubs a glimpse into what they hope will be a promising future.

Chipper Jones' likely Hall of Fame career for the Atlanta Braves is close to entering the record books.

Rizzo looks to continue his hot hitting as the surging Cubs go for a series victory against Jones and the sputtering Braves in the finale of this four-game set at Turner Field on Thursday night.

Chicago's most promising prospect, Rizzo has lived up to the hype since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa last week. The 22-year-old first baseman is hitting .323 with three homers and six RBIs in eight games.

He had two hits and his solo shot was one of three homers in Wednesday's 5-1 victory, the Cubs' seventh in nine games.

After trailing fifth-place Houston by six games on June 25, Chicago (31-50) is now within a half-game of climbing out of the cellar.

"You have a team that, since it's a little more stable, you'd like to have a goal of playing .500 baseball in the second half with the team we have to get a respectable record," manager Dale Sveum told the team's official website. "It's still a day-to-day game. You have the goal of winning series, winning the first game of the series, and go from there."

The Braves (42-39) have dropped seven of 11 to fall from three games out to six back of first-place Washington.

Those struggles certainly can't be pinned on Jones. The 40-year-old has compiled a .439 average with seven doubles and nine RBIs while hitting safely in his last 11 games.

Jones needs just one RBI to match Mike Schmidt's NL record of 1,595 for the most by a player whose primary position is third base. He's two back of George Brett for the major league record.

He'll try to top those marks in his first look at Matt Garza (4-6, 4.01 ERA), who is 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in his last six road starts compared to 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA in his six home outings. Garza has allowed 11 homers in 50 road innings while yielding just one in 39 2-3 at Wrigley Field.

The right-hander battled through his latest outing at home Saturday, allowing two runs and nine hits with three walks while throwing 104 pitches in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-2 win over Houston.

Garza will be trying to lead the Cubs to a fifth win in seven games this season against the Braves, and strong pitching has been the key to that success. Atlanta has totaled three runs in its four losses to Chicago.

"Sometimes, man, you meet a team that's playing good baseball," said Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, who has six hits and has scored five runs in this series. "That's what's happening right now."

Scoring runs hasn't been a problem for Atlanta when Mike Minor (4-6, 6.20) has taken the hill against the Cubs. Thanks to 11.88 runs of support, he's won all three of his starts in the series despite a 4.86 ERA.

The left-hander enters this meeting as the loser of two of his last three starts with a 7.04 ERA. He had yielded two runs in 12 1-3 innings in his previous two.

"It's just an up and down year for me," Minor said after walking a career high-tying five over five innings of Saturday's 7-5 win over Washington.

"I'm just trying to do my best every time I go out there and try to give the team a chance to win."

The Braves won't have the services of top setup man Craig Kimbrel, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a left elbow impingement. The move came after he gave up his sixth homer of the season Wednesday.

Kimbrel is 3-3 with a 4.45 ERA and no saves this season.

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