Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs Series Preview

Bryan LaHair has come up big for the Cubs.

When Theo Epstein took over as GM during the winter, he had the monumental task of turning the Cubs into a contender. So far in 2012, they've looked like anything but, starting the season 3-11. They've improved somewhat since then, posting an 8-6 record, but only twice have they won consecutive games, winning no more than two in a row and have alternated wins and losses every game since April 24.

When Carlos Pena re-signed with Tampa Bay, that left a gaping hole at first base, but 29-year-old Bryan LaHair has stepped in filled the void quite nicely. LaHair is hitting .390 and leads the team with seven home runs; no one else on the team has more than two. He also sports an insane OPS of 1.257 and 16 of his 30 hits are for extra bases. Starlin Castro continues to be an offensive force, hitting .345 and swiping 11 bases. His 39 hits are second in the NL only to Atlanta's own Michael Bourn.

The new faces on the team haven't contributed much, however. Ian Stewart is no Aramis Ramirez at third base, hitting only .204 with a .275 OBP. David DeJesus is hitting just .250 despite a .357 OBP. Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad have combined for a 3-6 record with an ugly 5.92 ERA. The team's 3.91 ERA isn't that impressive, but it's better than Atlanta's (4.41). However, the Braves carry the better offense, scoring a major-league best 162 runs compared to Chicago's 98. Seven of the Cubs' 11 wins have come at Wrigley Field, but the Braves have the best road record in the NL at 10-6.

Pitching matchups and Cubs roster after the jump.

Monday May 7, 8:05 p.m. ET

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Tommy Hanson 3-2 6 6 0 0 0 0 33.2 34 15 14 2 14 31 3.74 1.43
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Jeff Samardzija 3-1 5 5 0 0 0 0 31.2 29 14 12 1 10 32 3.41 1.23

Tuesday May 8, 8:05 p.m. ET

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Randall Delgado 2-3 5 5 0 0 0 0 28.0 29 16 16 3 12 26 5.14 1.46
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Ryan Dempster 0-1 4 4 0 0 0 0 28.1 14 5 3 1 9 29 0.95 0.81


Wednesday May 9, 2:20 p.m. ET

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Tim Hudson 1-0 2 2 0 0 0 0 11.0 12 9 8 1 5 12 6.55 1.55
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Paul Maholm 3-2 5 5 0 0 0 0 26.1 24 15 15 5 6 14 5.13 1.14

CUBS STARTERS

C - Geovany Soto
1B - Bryan LaHair
2B - Darwin Barney
3B - Ian Stewart
SS - Starlin Castro
LF - Alfonso Soriano
CF - Tony Campana
RF - David DeJesus

CUBS BENCH

IF - Jeff Baker
C - Welington Castillo
OF - Reed Johnson
OF/CIF - Joe Mather

CUBS BULLPEN

R - Michael Bowden
R - Shawn Camp
R - Lendy Castillo
R - Rafael Dolis
R - Carlos Marmol (closer)
L - James Russell
R - Kerry Wood

Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have provided the only real bright spots in the rotation. Dempster leads all starters with a miniscule 0.95 ERA in his four starts while Garza leads the team with 36 strikeouts to accompany a 2.67 ERA. Jeff Samardzija has posted a respectable 3.41 ERA with 32 strikeouts in his first full season as a starter. With Marlon Byrd having been traded away, Tony Campana has become the new starting center fielder and is hitting .325 in 14 games. Darwin Barney is hitting only .245 this year, but has been a pest to the Braves, hitting .313 with a .353 OBP in 10 games.

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