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Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves preview, Thursday 4/4, 6:20 CT

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Maybe today.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Notes for today:

  • As bad as Cubs pitching has been, the offense has been that good. The Cubs lead the majors with a .330 batting average (60-for-182) and a .420 on-base percentage. The Dodgers are a distant second with a .289 average and a .388 OBP. And the Cubs are averaging 6.40 runs per game thus far, third-highest in the N.L. behind the Dodgers (7.86) and Phillies (7.80).
  • The Cubs have dropped four of their first five games to start a season for the first time since 2014, and for the fifth time since 2000. Tonight, the Cubs are looking to avoid their first 1-5 start since 2012. The Cubs are three games under .500 for the first time since completing the 2014 season with a 73-89 record.
  • Jon Lester became just the second Cubs pitcher in the last seven seasons to reach safely at least three times and record a quality start. The other? Jake Arrieta, who did it April 21, 2016 in Cincinnati, throwing his second career no-hitter while reaching base three times (two singles and a walk).
  • Willson Contreras last night hit his first homer of the season, and his 44th since making his debut in 2016. Those 44 homers rank fourth-most in that span among N.L. catchers behind Yasmani Grandal (73), J.T. Realmuto (50) and Yadier Molina (46). Contreras is also the first Cub since Emilio Bonifacio in 2014 to record multiple three-hit games within the Cubs’ first five games of the season. Prior to Bonifacio, Starlin Castro did that in 2011 and Aramis Ramirez did it in 2007.

There is a chance of rain in the Atlanta area tonight, though it appears most of it will hold off until late enough to get the game in. Just in case, here’s the local radar:

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Kyle Schwarber stays in the lineup vs. a LHP.

Braves lineup:

Yu Darvish, RHP vs. Max Fried, LHP

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s not talk about Yu Darvish’s first start of 2019, which was a disaster.

Let’s also not talk about Yu Darvish’s two starts (yes, two of eight!) against the Braves last year, which... also didn’t work out so well.

What can we talk about regarding Yu? Well... it would seem to me that coming off the good spring he had, this has to be the bottom. And despite his poor record vs. the Braves in 2018, overall current Braves are hitting .197 (14-for-71) against him with one home run (Ender Inciarte) and 30 strikeouts.

Those numbers, though a small sample size, seem somewhat encouraging.

And it can’t get worse. Right? Right?

Max Fried has made one relief appearance so far this year, his only outing of 2019, 1⅔ scoreless innings against the Phillies. He did not face the Cubs last year, so his last outing against them was five solid innings September 3, 2017 at Wrigley Field. He allowed one run that day, a home run to... someone who isn’t on the team right now, Ian Happ.

So, what to expect tonight? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Fried is a lefthander who is a fastball/curveball type, rarely throwing a slider or changeup. Perhaps the Cubs can take advantage of that. In fact, the issue with the Cubs this year so far isn’t hitting. They’re hitting. It’s pitching and defense.

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and Atlanta markets).

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Braves site Talking Chop. If you do go there to interact with Braves fans, please be respectful, abide by their individual site rules and serve as a good representation of Cub fans in general and BCB in particular.

The 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. Here’s how it works.

You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).

At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.

The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.