MLB

Braves-Cubs Preview

Affectionately referred to as The Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field has been especially welcoming to the Chicago Cubs lately.

They'll look to continue their power surge there and claim their first four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves in 47 years Sunday.

The Cubs (70-51) have won 11 of 13 at home, clubbing 19 homers and averaging 7.0 runs in the last seven. They went deep four times in Saturday's 9-7 win against the Braves, going ahead on back-to-back homers by Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler in the eighth inning. Both finished 2 for 4, with Montero recording multiple hits for the third time in four games.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell also hit home runs. Rizzo has three in his last six at home, matching his total from his previous 41 games there.

"I'm not going to try to qualify the homers," manager Joe Maddon said after a particularly blustery day at Wrigley. "They're homers, that's the way the ballpark plays. You've got to hit it, too."

Saturday's outburst put the Cubs in position for their first four-game sweep of Atlanta since Aug. 19-21, 1968, also in Chicago. They remain three games behind Pittsburgh for the NL's top wild-card spot.

The Braves (53-70) picked a bad time for their best offensive output in 12 games after totaling nine runs in the first five games of this season high-tying six-game losing streak. Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate after batting .160 with 10 strikeouts in his first 10 games with his new club.

Atlanta's eight consecutive road losses are its most since an eight-game slide last July 29-Aug. 6, and the team hasn't lost nine straight away from home since a 10-game losing streak Aug. 31-Sept. 14, 1996.

"The bats kind of came alive tonight," Swisher said. "It's just a tough loss, man. Haven't been going well for us as of late."

The Braves might have another chance at a big number, however, given the way Jason Hammel (6-5, 3.38 ERA) has pitched lately for Chicago. He's 1-3 over his last 12 starts and hasn't won at Wrigley Field since April 27. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 outings there since, receiving two runs of support or fewer eight times.

He's thrown four innings or fewer four times in his last seven starts, and lasted just three in Tuesday's 10-8 loss to Detroit. The Tigers pounded Hammel for five runs and season highs of nine hits and three homers.

Hammel is 1-4 in eight career matchups with Atlanta with a 6.37 ERA - his highest for a team he's started against at least that many times. He gave up five runs over three innings in his last meeting, a 7-2 road loss Aug. 15, 2014, with Oakland.

Freddie Freeman, who is 5 for 17 in four games since returning from an oblique strain, is 5 for 7 with two home runs against Hammel. Nick Markakis is 8 for 16 against his former Baltimore teammate.

The Braves counter with Matt Wisler (5-3, 4.65), who is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in four starts since his last victory, walking eight in 20 innings.

The rookie took a liner off his right arm in the fifth inning Tuesday against San Diego, and exited at the end of the inning. Wisler said it wasn't serious and only anticipated soreness.

"You want him to go deeper, obviously, but we didn't want to mess around (after) the line drive," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We checked him in here and I think he will be fine for the next start."

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