After some late inning magic on Sunday afternoon - this particular variety supplied by Johan Camargo’s pinch hit home run to take down the Nationals - the Braves’ streak of five consecutive series victories is alive and well. Starting today, the Braves will set out to extend that streak to six.
With widespread division losses over the past week, the Braves suddenly find themselves high atop the NL East mountain with a 6 ½ game lead that seemed all but impossible two weeks ago. They will face a Chicago Cubs team who leads a clustered NL Central, albeit by a much smaller margin than the Braves. Their lead over the Brewers is merely ½ game, while they sit 5 ½ games ahead of the last-place Pirates. Suffice to say, the Cubs’ division rivals have been holding it together a bit better than the Braves’ competition has been.
Julio Teheran will attempt to right the ship after last week’s stinker against the Mets. After eight consecutive starts in which he did not allow more than one earned run, Julio unraveled against Pete Alonso & Co., surrendering six earned runs over four innings. Today, he will have an uphill battle against a tough Cubs lineup.
The Braves will face Jon Lester, who has been mired in a rough patch over the past month. During his last seven starts, Lester is 3-4 with a 7.17 ERA | 6.17 FIP, allowing an uncharacteristic 2.63 HR/9. In a place like Wrigley Field, against a lineup that has been swinging it like the Braves have, things could get interesting quickly.
This will be the second time these two pitchers have faced each other this season, the first of which came April 3. Thanks to some late inning heroics (a recurring theme for the Braves again this year, it appears), and a Cubs bullpen that was very generous with walks, the Braves won that game, 6-4. Of note: Jonny Venters, Wes Parsons, Jesse Biddle, and Arodys Vizcaino all pitched for the Braves in that game; of those four, only Parsons remains in the organization, and he is not currently with the big league squad.
Chicago is in a different place than they were when the Braves swept them in April; they have gone 41-30 since and have cleaned up a few of their own messes. Their bullpen is still an adventure, but it has been better than when the Braves saw them (and this is without Craig Kimbrel making his Chicago debut yet).
The Cubs have played well at Wrigley Field, going 27-14 thus far. The Braves play well on the road, however - posting a 22-15 mark - so this could offset any home field advantage for the Cubbies.
There is a distinct Playoff Series feel to this four-game set, and it will be a great checkpoint for both teams as we coast into the exact midpoint of the season.
Time/Date: Monday, June 24, 8:05 pm ET
Location: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network