Cubs-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves entered this season surrounded by a palpable level of excitement after acquiring the Upton brothers.

It hasn't taken long for those moves to pay off.

After hitting tying and winning homers, B.J. and Justin look to lead Atlanta to a three-game sweep of the visiting Chicago Cubs on Sunday.

The Braves appeared headed for defeat Saturday, trailing 5-1 in the eighth inning, but stormed back for a 6-5 win. Entering the ninth down a run, B.J. led off with a homer off Carlos Marmol and Justin followed one out later with another home run off the embattled closer, leading to a wild celebration at home plate.

"We'd never dreamed of being on the same team, much less coming out here and doing that," B.J. said. "It's exciting."

The Uptons became the 25th tandem of brothers to homer in the same game, helping Atlanta move to 5-1 for the first time since 2009. The Braves opened 7-1 in 2007.

"Ah, man, I think right now, in my mind, it's No. 1," said Justin, who also homered in the first. "It was exhilarating out there. We had a great time with it."

While B.J. entered Saturday 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts, Justin is batting .389 with five homers and seven RBIs.

The Uptons, though, could have a hard time building on their big night against Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who turned in a masterful performance on opening day. The right-hander allowed two hits with one walk and nine strikeouts over eight scoreless innings of a 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday.

"That was probably as good of a game that he's pitched in his starting career," manager Dale Sveum said.

Samardzija entered this season with an 11-16 record and a 4.30 ERA in his first 33 career starts.

"He can go to 95-97 (mph), then drop that breaking ball in there at 80," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's always a challenge, trying to cover close to 20 mph."

Samardzija's performance shouldn't come as much of a surprise to Atlanta, which hasn't been able to figure him out. He won both his starts against the Braves last year while compiling a 1.29 ERA and striking out 18 over 14 innings.

Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward have gone 2 for 14 and 1 for 6, respectively, against Samardzija, though both have homered off him. Freddie Freeman is 0 for 6, and he won't get a chance to improve that number as the Braves have placed him on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.

While things could be looking up for Samardzija, the same cannot be said for Marmol.

He's allowed five runs, six hits, two walks and hit a batter in three relief appearances spanning 1 2-3 innings, and the Cubs (2-3) could be forced to go in a different direction at closer.

"We're definitely going to talk about it," Sveum said. "I don't know whether it's mechanical, the arm angle or what. When he throws strikes, he's getting hit now, too."

The Braves give the ball to Tim Hudson (0-0, 6.23), who's looking to get on track following a shaky debut. The right-hander gave up three runs, six hits and three walks before being removed with one out in the fifth inning of a 7-5 win over Philadelphia on Monday.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons sat out Saturday with a sprained left thumb, and he'll miss this contest as well.

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