The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of an historic power surge, and their young sluggers next take aim at the visiting Atlanta Braves when the teams begin a four-game series on Thursday. Chicago has scored 17 runs twice in its last five games and hopes to remain hot after collecting a season-high 20 hits in Wednesday’s 17-3 win over Pittsburgh.
The Cubs became the first team in major-league history to have five players with at least 20 home runs at age 25 or younger in the same season when rookie Ian Happ hit the plateau in Wednesday’s rout. Chicago swept the three-game series from the Pirates and is a season-high 12 games above .500 and 3 1/2 ahead of Milwaukee in the National League Central. The Braves ended their three-game losing streak with a 9-1 win on Wednesday and went on to complete a sweep of their doubleheader at Philadelphia. Chicago outscored the Braves 17-6 during a three-game sweep in Atlanta last month.
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Atlanta), CSN Chicago
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves LH Sean Newcomb (2-7, 4.36 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Kyle Hendricks (5-4, 3.45)
Newcomb has recorded only one win in his last 10 starts, and it came on Aug. 20 as he threw five scoreless innings against Cincinnati. The 24-year-old gave up four runs and seven hits over 4 2/3 frames of a no-decision against Colorado on Saturday. Newcomb faced the Cubs on July 18 and was tagged for five runs and eight hits – two homers – in a loss.
Hendricks snapped his eight-start winless skid when he held Philadelphia to two runs over seven innings in a 17-2 rout on Saturday. The 27-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA during the drought, but the Cubs scored fewer than three runs in six of his eight starts over that stretch. Hendricks has posted a 2.84 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Atlanta.
1. The Cubs have a franchise-record six players with 20 or more home runs, joining Baltimore as the only two teams in the majors to do so this season.
2. Atlanta 2B Brandon Phillips is 22-for-64 during a 14-game hitting streak.
3. Happ became the fastest player in franchise history to reach 20 home runs, doing so in his 89th game to surpass Kyle Schwarber’s mark of 97 games.
PREDICTION: Cubs 6, Braves 4