May 09, 2014

ATLANTA -- The Chicago Cubs will make their final appearance at Turner Field on Sunday and send a veteran pitcher against another one of the Atlanta Braves young arms.

The finale of the three-game series will feature Chicago left-hander Jon Lester (7-3, 2.08), a three-time All-Star who has played in four league championship series and two World Series.

He'll be opposed by John Gant, a 22-year-old rookie who will be making his first major league start. Gant, obtained from the New York Mets in a midseason trade last year, has made seven relief apperances for the Braves this season.

The two teams split the first two games of the series, Atlanta winning 5-1 on Friday and Chicago rebounding for an 8-2 victory on Saturday.

Lester has been outstanding again this season, his second with the Cubs. In his last two starts, Lester has struck out at least nine and not walked a batter, becoming the team's first lefty to do that since 1913. Over his last three starts he's 3-0 with a 0.77 ERA.

Lester has gone at least six innings and allowed one or fewer earned runs in eight of his 12 starts. The Cubs are 9-3 in games that Lester has started.

"All their pitchers are throwing the ball well," said Atlanta catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Gant made the team as a longshot in spring training. He has split his time between Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett, going 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA in eight starts for the G-Braves, where he had 48 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 43 innings.

With Atlanta, the lanky right-hander is 0-0 with a 6.17 ERA and has pitched 11 2/3 innings of relief and allowed 13 hits, five walks while striking out 14.

The Braves hope to get a deep effort from Gant after Matt Wisler was able to last only four innings on Saturday, necessitating the use of four relievers. Wisler has allowed six homers in a combined eight innings over his last two starts.

"He's just in a little rut right now," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He'll be fine. He'll get through it. There's still a learning curve and he's trying to figure it out."

Meanwhile the Cubs have enjoyed a Wrigley-like experience at Turner Field. Of Saturday's 43,114 in attendance, many were sporting Chicago colors and Cubs gear. Among the Cub fans in attendance was actor Bill Murray, who sat near the third base dugout and agreeably had his picture taken hundreds of times.

"It's so nice," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We do travel well. There are certain organizations in sports that do and we're one of them. We really appreciate it ... and they're nice people, too."

The Cubs have been a road machine. Dating back to the second game of a double-header at Pittsburgh on Sept. 15, the Cubs have won 29 of their last 39 regular-season road games.

Atlanta and Chicago have split their four meetings this year. After Sunday's game, the two teams will have a makeup game on July 7 at Wrigley Field. Atlanta holds a 43-29 lead in the all-time series at Turner Field.

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