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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Braves series preview

This series is likely to tell us a lot about the 2023 Chicago Cubs and where they stand among N.L. teams.

Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

The Cubs have not played the Braves since June 19, 2022, a span of 205 games. To give you an idea of how much the Cubs have changed since then, of the 11 Cubs who played in that game last year, five are no longer on the team (Willson Contreras, Jonathan Villar, Jason Heyward, Alfonso Rivas and Adrian Sampson).

For more on the Braves, here’s Kris Willis, manager of our SB Nation Braves site Battery Power.

This Braves team is in a much different situation from where they have been the past two seasons. In 2021, they didn’t get over .500 until August, but of course caught fire and won their first World Series title since 1995. Last season, they dug themselves an early hole, but were able to run down the Mets and capture their fifth straight division title before falling to the Phillies in the Division Series.

This season, Atlanta has the best record in baseball and are bashing home runs at an historic pace. At 69-37, they are 32 games above .500 despite Max Fried and Kyle Wright making 10 starts combined. Fried’s last start came on May 5, but he will return for Friday’s series opener against the Cubs which should give the Braves a significant boost for their rotation if he is anywhere close to his normal level.

Another big difference for Atlanta is that Ronald Acuña Jr. is healthy again and playing at a historic level. Acuña hit his 25th home run of the season in Wednesday’s win over the Angels and leads the majors with 51 stolen bases. He appears poised to make a run at a possible 40-70 season. Matt Olson leads the National League with 37 homers and the majors with 91 RBI. Atlanta leads the majors with 206 home runs and have nine players that have hit at least 11 home runs.

Fun fact

The Cubs and Braves are the only two teams that have been in the National League since its first season, 1876.

By the end of 1900, the Cubs had played the Braves 361 times, which was 74 more than against any of the 30 (!) other teams that had been in the NL by then.

By the end of 1968, the teams had met 1,824 times, the Cubs’ most by 60.

Then the league was split into divisions, with the Cubs in the East and the Braves, bizarrely, in the West, meaning the ancient rivals played fewer times each season than they would have had they been in the same division.

Beginning in 1969, the Cubs have played 497 games vs. the Braves, compared to 914 vs. the Cardinals and 905 vs. the Pirates.

Those 497 are the fewest the Cubs have played since 1969 against any of the seven pre-expansion teams. They also are fewer than against the Mets (637), Astros (591) and Padres (512).

Their 2,322 games against the Braves since 1876 now is only their fifth highest total, behind 2,588 vs. the Pirates, 2,500 vs. the Cardinals, 2,399 vs. the Reds and 2,386 vs. the Phillies.

The Cubs have played 2,272 vs. the Giants and 2,134 vs. the Dodgers.

(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)

Probable pitching matchups

Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (4-5, 3.49 ERA, 1.060 WHIP, 3,96 FIP) vs. Max Fried, LHP (2-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 3.04 FIP)

Saturday: TBD vs. Bryce Elder, RHP (8-2, 3.18 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 4.15 FIP)

Sunday: Justin Steele, LHP (12-3, 2.65 ERA, 1.133 WHIP, 3.12 FIP) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (10-9, 3.62 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 4.08 FIP)

NOTE: It seems likely that either Javier Assad or Hayden Wesneski will take the Saturday start, which was Marcus Stroman’s rotation spot. Assad was briefly warming up during Thursday night’s game, but did not pitch; his last outing was 3⅔ innings and 62 pitches Monday night. Wesneski threw two innings and 24 pitches Tuesday night.

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Braves market territories)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network


The Cubs don’t have to face Spencer Strider in this series, and that’s good, because Strider leads MLB in strikeouts.

These pitching matchups are decent for the Cubs. The Braves are a very good team, but I think the Cubs can take this series, which is a tough test against the team currently with MLB’s best record.

Up next

The Cubs travel to New York to face the Mets in a three-game series that begins Monday evening.


How many games will the Cubs win against the Braves?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    (12 votes)
  • 36%
    (97 votes)
  • 46%
    (124 votes)
  • 13%
    (35 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now