The Atlanta Braves will try to strengthen their hold on the wild card and gain ground on Philadelphia in the NL East Wednesday night in the third game of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Wednesday’s game at Wrigley Field is set to start at 5:05 p.m. (PT) as Derek Lowe takes the mound against Randy Wells.
Entering Tuesday, Atlanta stood 8.5-games ahead of San Francisco in the NL Wild Card race, and 6.5-games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. Chicago’s playoff hopes are over, but the Cubs have been playing some good baseball lately (14-7 over their last 21 games, +8.80 units) and won’t give Atlanta the series without a fight.
Atlanta (77-52) has been red hot, winning five straight (+5.10 units) and 12 of the last 15 (+7.65 units). Two of the three losses over that stretch came against the Cubs, so the Braves won’t be taking them lightly in this series.
Derek Lowe (8-11, 4.73 ERA) has struggled this season, holding the highest ERA among Atlanta’s starting pitchers and the only losing record on the staff. The Braves have won two of Lowe’s last three trips to the mound (+0.35 units), but are 5-8 over his last 13 (-4.05 units).
In 11 career starts against Chicago, Lowe is 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA. In his only start against the Cubs this season on August 13, he gave up five runs over six innings and took the loss.
Chicago (56-72) has won five of its last six series, including 2-1 series wins over contenders in Atlanta and St. Louis. Sitting 20.5-games out of the wild card race, the winning stretch is coming a bit too late to matter this season, but the Cubs seem content to play spoiler and build some momentum for next season.
Randy Wells (4-4, 5.84 ERA) has not pitched well in 2011, giving up four or more earned runs in 10 of his 16 starts. That said, he has been a profitable pitcher in August over the Cubs’ hot streak, as Chicago is 3-1 (+3.10 units) in his four starts this month.
Wells has fared well over St. Louis in five career starts, posting a 3.00 ERA and a 3-1 record. One of those wins came on August 13, when he topped Derek Lowe as a 155 underdog.
Atlanta won the series opener Monday night to knot up the season series between these two teams heading into Tuesday 2-2. Monday night’s game went ‘under,’ but the three previous games all went ‘over.’
The total has gone ‘over’ in 11 of Derek Lowe’s last 13 starts and three of Randy Wells’ last four.
Chicago is 31-35 at Wrigley Field this season (-5.95 units) and Atlanta is 36-27 (+8.20 units) on the road.
Atlanta outfielder Jose Constanza (ankle injury) may not be available for the Braves Wednesday.
DJ Reyburn is scheduled to call the plate in Wednesday's contest, and brings strong leans to the home team and 'under' into the game. His previous 21 plate assignments in 2011 have seen the home squad win 14 times, 10-4 when the favorite. The 'under is also 14-7, including both of his games at Wrigley.
A 40 percent chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms is in the Chicago forecast for Wednesday. First pitch should find the thermometer in the mid-80s with WSW winds in the 12-15 mph range. Brandon Beachy and Matt Garza will pitch in the series finale Thursday afternoon.