September 5, 2017 / 3:05 AM / 3 months ago

Preview: Rangers at Braves

The Atlanta Braves return home Monday to open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers, and do so after several of the team’s rookies contributed in a big way to Sunday’s 5-1 triumph against the defending world champion Chicago Cubs. Middle infielders Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies combined for three hits and two runs scored Sunday, while third baseman Rio Ruiz drove in three and Max Fried won his first major-league start.

Those are the types of performances Atlanta seeks in the final four weeks of the season, as the franchise hopes the pieces acquired during its three-year rebuild begin contributing on a regular basis and return the Braves to contention. The Rangers have a difficult road ahead if they are going to reach the postseason in 2017, beginning the week three games behind Minnesota for the second American League wild-card spot. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who hit 17 home runs total from 2014-16, belted his 17th and 18th longballs of the season in Sunday’s 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Texas has won four of its past six and outfielder Delino DeShields has reached base in 17 consecutive games, going 5-for-9 with five walks and six runs scored since returning to the lineup Friday.

TV: 7:35 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Texas), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH Andrew Cashner (8-9, 3.30 ERA) vs. Braves RH R.A. Dickey (9-8, 3.91)

Cashner has pitched well for Texas since the first of July, going 5-2 in his past nine starts with a 2.58 ERA and 33 strikeouts against 16 walks in 59 1/3 innings. His last start Wednesday against Houston was arguably his best of the season - eight innings of one-run, three-hit pitching with no walks and six strikeouts. Cashner has limited opponents to two earned runs or fewer in five of his past six outings, and for the season has surrendered only two homers in 72 innings on the road.

Dickey aims for his 10th victory of the season, which would give the 42-year-old a sixth-consecutive season with double-digit wins. He rebounded from a tough two-start stretch (eight runs, 19 hits allowed in 12 innings) to beat Philadelphia on Wednesday, surrendering one run on seven hits in eight innings while matching a season-high with nine strikeouts. Dickey, who made his major-league debut with Texas in 2001, is 3-2 in nine career appearances with a 2.72 ERA against the Rangers.

WALK-OFFS

1. Texas begins the week leading the majors with 212 homers, after slugging four in Sunday’s victory.

2. Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman will have his left wrist examined Monday after admitting to reporters this weekend he has lost strength since returning from a fractured wrist in July.

3. The Rangers are 5-1-1 in their past seven series.

PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Braves 2

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