Saturday MLB Preview – Braves at Cubs

The Braves picked up a dramatic victory in the opening game of this series and now turn to one of their best pitchers in Game 2.

Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs

Atlanta picked up a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs to open this three-game set at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.  Braves outfielder Rick Ankiel cleared the bases with a two-out triple in the ninth inning in order for the club to move 22 games over .500 on the year.  “It’s like there’s something in the water around here,” Ankiel said.  “It’s fun.  It’s like no matter what, we’re never out of it.  It’s fun to be a part of it.”  The win also gave the club its 37th comeback victory of the season, which leads all of baseball.  Atlanta is 23-16 in day games this season (+450) and 70-66 over the last three years (-320).  The club is also just a game over .500 versus southpaws (22-21, -490) and the total is 20-21 O/U in those contests.

Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson is 8-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 25 starts this season and the club has won two straight games with him on the hill.  Over that span, he has given up two runs (one earned) and seven hits over 14 frames.  The right-hander is an even 4-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 road starts this season, surrendering just three home runs in 72 innings of work.  He will be making just his eighth daytime start, going an even 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA, while producing a 6-6 record and 3.20 ERA in 18 nighttime outings.  Hanson fell 2-0 in defeat at home in his only start against the Cubs to open this season, allowing two runs and four hits over 5.1 innings, with both runs coming on solo home runs.

Chicago was unable to close the door on the Braves in the final inning of yesterday’s game, as closer Carlos Marmol loaded the bases by issuing three walks.  “I wasn’t throwing strikes today,” Marmol said.  “I made a mistake and paid for it.”  The Cubs are 11-23 since the All-Star break and 4-15 in August, falling 21 games back in the NL Central race.  “What are you going to do?”, manager Lou Piniella said after his club’s fifth straight loss and eighth at home.  Their eight-game losing streak at Wrigley Field is the longest since dropping nine in a row from May 31 to June 27, 2006.  Overall, the club is 28-36 in home games this season (-1,930) and the total is 28-32 O/U in those contests.  Chicago has produced a dismal 9-20 mark when playing teams with a winning record in the second half of the season (-820).

Cubs starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny is 6-7 with a 3.85 ERA in 24 appearances (18 starts) this year and the club has dropped four straight games with him on the hill.  Chicago has been outscored by a 23-14 margin over that span, as he’s allowed 17 runs and 30 hits in 25.2 innings of work.  The left-hander will be making his 15th daytime appearances (10th start), compiling a 4-2 mark and 3.20 ERA, issuing 31 walks and compiling 54 strikeouts.  In five career games (three starts) against the Braves, Gorzelanny has an even 1-1 record and 3.80 ERA.  He has posted a 1.42 ERA as a reliever this season (6.1IP) compared to a 3.99 ERA as a starter (106IP).

Bettors will find that the Braves are an outstanding 19-7 in their last 26 games against the NL Central and the over is 4-1 in Hanson’s last five outings versus the division.  On the other side, Chicago has dropped nine straight versus winning opponents and the under is 19-5-2 in the Cubs last 26 versus the NL East.

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