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.

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NL Central rivals get set to play an important three-game series at Wrigley Field.

Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati has won six of its last eight games and moved its record to 10-1-1 in its last 12 series.  The Reds will now face off with a team that they’ve beaten five of six times this year, outscoring the Cubs by a 49-13 margin.  “Yeah, we’ve got to keep winning series and hopefully you throw a sweep or two in there somewhere,” manager Dusty Baker said.  The club is just a game over .500 with a 19-18 record this season (-150) and the total is 11-21 O/U in those contests.  Cincinnati is averaging 4.1 runs per game and hitting for a combined .259 average during the day, which is almost a full run lower (4.9) than its average for the year.  Playing divisional opponents has provided a boost to the team’s record all season, coming into this three-game series with a 31-18 record against NL Central opponents (+1,340).

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The Cubs aim to break a long-standing series losing streak against divisional opponents, but it will be tough against their long-time rivals.

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

St. Louis suffered a 5-0 road loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon, which was the first time the club had been shut out in back-to-back games since September 1995.  It marked the first time in his 2,364 games as Cardinals manager that Tony LaRussa’s team had been blanked in back-to-back games.  Before this recent stretch, St. Louis had won eight straight games and outscored opponents 46-17 over that span, but have now been held scoreless in 20 consecutive innings since.  The team has bounced back nicely after suffering a loss, going 26-16 on the year (+440), but it’s important to note they are just 3-5 after getting shut out (-260).  The Cardinals are 20-16 in day games this season (-210) and the total is 15-19 O/U in those contests.

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Two of the National League’s worst teams try to gain some type of momentum during the final week before the All-Star break.

Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks

Chicago heads West for the second time in the last 14 days to begin a three-game series at Chase Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Cubs can only hope to forget Sunday’s 14-3 blowout defeat at the hands of division-rival Cincinnati.  “They hit seven home runs,” manager Lou Piniella said.  “You would think we could get a few balls up in the air and let them ride out of here.”  Chicago will look to win its first series opener since May 25, as they’ve lost 11 series openers in a row.  The Cubs are desperate for a season turnaround having lost 21 of their last 32 games, but may have success in doing so against tonight’s opponent.  Chicago stands at 7-2 against National League West competition, including a 3-1 mark against the Diamonbacks.  The Cubs are 28-45 against all other foes.

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Today we take a look at what should be 2 of the best games of the day.

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

Tampa Bay travels to the Bronx in an unfamiliar role this late in the season, carrying an MLB-best record of 28-11 (+1,014) into this series.  To put the current record in perspective, the Rays didn’t win their 28th game of the 2009 season until June 4 (56th game).   The Rays are 1-2 against the Yankees in 2010, losing the series at Tropicana Field in April.  Overall, the team has dropped 10 of the last 15 meetings, including seven straight at Yankee Stadium.  Their fortune may change in New York this time around, carrying an impressive 15-4 road mark (+1,050) into this division battle.

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Baltimore catcher and prodigy Matt Wieters came into the league with a tremendous amount of hype this spring. It certainly hasn’t taken him long to justify it. His first full month in the league – June – was a bit rocky. By July, though, he had figured things out in a big way. He hit .323 on the month, and he had a decent OPS of .767. More amazing than the numbers, Wieters has quickly started to look comfortable and confident. It’s not at all hard to believe that he’s the real deal.

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