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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Braves Series Preview

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The Cubs and Braves have not met in more than a full calendar year.

Not one of these players was on the Braves last year. One of them wasn't on the Braves two months ago. It's a new day in Atlanta
Not one of these players was on the Braves last year. One of them wasn't on the Braves two months ago. It's a new day in Atlanta
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

These aren't your father's Atlanta Braves, or even your older sibling's. In fact, they aren't even last year's model, which the Cubs last saw July 13, 2014, and not in Atlanta since May 11, 2014.

On the current Atlanta 25-man roster are no fewer than 16 players that weren't on the Braves' big-league roster at any time last year. That includes several rookies, including starting second baseman Jace Peterson (acquired by trade from the Padres) and quite a few players with somewhat odd Cubs connections.

Hey, look over here! It's former Cub Arodys Vizcaino, who the Cubs sent back to Atlanta for Tommy La Stella over the winter. Vizcaino just returned to the big leagues last week after serving an 80-game suspension for PED use.

Then there's Jake Brigham. Who? You might remember him as briefly a member of the Cubs organization -- he was acquired for Geovany Soto in July 2012, then sent back to the Rangers for Barret Loux, who made three starts for Iowa this year before suffering an elbow injury.

There's backup catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was a Cub for four days in December on a waiver journey from the Red Sox to the Dodgers to the Cubs to the Orioles, who let him go last month. Now he's in Atlanta. Hope they all let him keep the frequent-flyer miles.

There's even David Aardsma, who has made 14 decent relief appearances for the Braves after not pitching in the big leagues since 2013. He pitched for the Cubs in 2005 before being traded for Neal Cotts, who's still hanging around, mostly because he's lefthanded.

And, of course, there's A.J. Pierzynski, who's always worth watching when he faces the Cubs.

The Braves started out this year reasonably well, but since June 2 they're 16-22 and having the same trouble scoring runs that the Cubs are. They're 10th in the National League in runs scored, just ahead of the Cubs. So, we might look for more low-scoring games in this series.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.55 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, 3.33 FIP) vs. Julio Teheran (6-4, 4.56 ERA, 1.362 WHIP, 4.65 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester (4-8, 3.59 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, 3.15 FIP) vs. Manny Banuelos (1-0, 0.75 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, 4.16 FIP)

Sunday: Jake Arrieta (10-5, 2.66 ERA, 0.986 WHIP, 2.60 FIP) vs. Shelby Miller (5-5, 2.18 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, 3.09 FIP)

Prediction

The Cubs should have favorable pitching matchups in at least two of these games, Saturday and Sunday, depending on which Jon Lester shows up this weekend. Hopefully, it's the one from the second half of last year. If Kyle Hendricks is the 2014 second-half Hendricks, he should have an advantage over Julio Teheran, who is having a bad season.

The Braves come in riding a five-game losing streak and the loss of their closer, Jason Grilli, who's out for the rest of the year with an Achilles injury. Atlanta has added veteran reliever Jason Frasor to replace Grilli on the 25-man roster, though he almost certainly won't close; he has just 36 career saves, none since 2010.

The Cubs ought to be able to take two of three here. That would be a refreshing change. The Cubs were swept in Atlanta in both 2013 and 2014 and have lost the last seven games they've played at the Ted.

Up next

The Cubs head to Cincinnati for a four-game set against the Reds which includes a split doubleheader next Wednesday. The first game of that DH is a makeup for this rainout on April 25.