Cubs-Braves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 01, 2012
Chipper Jones would like to make a final appearance in the All-Star game before retiring, but more importantly, he is looking for the Atlanta Braves to play better. After a disappointing series against the team atop the NL East, Jones and the Braves look to bounce back during a four-game set against the MLB-worst Chicago Cubs beginning Monday night. Atlanta (41-37) dropped two of three to Washington in a sweltering weekend set, losing 8-4 on Sunday. The Braves rotation, which was solid in a series victory against Arizona to begin this homestand, gave up 14 runs - 11 earned - over 15 innings against the Nationals. "We have the ability, as a team, to play brilliantly," said Jones, who had a double Sunday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. "We also have the ability, at times, to bring out our inner Bad News Bears." Before the game, Jones expressed a desire to make his eighth All-Star appearance. He's one of five candidates for the final NL spot, to be determined by fan voting. "This being my last year, it would be fun to go. I'd love to take my kids," he said. For now, he and Atlanta are focused on beating the lowly Cubs (29-49), who took two of three from the Braves at Wrigley Field in May. Jones went 2 for 12 in that series as Atlanta totaled four runs, but he's hitting .340 lifetime at home against Chicago, including .371 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games since 2008. Tommy Hanson (9-4, 3.59 ERA) will try again Monday to beat the Cubs for the first time. He allowed two runs - both on solo homers - over six innings of a 5-1 defeat May 7 at Wrigley to fall to 0-3 with a 4.41 ERA in three career starts against Chicago. The Braves have won his last five starts overall, with Hanson going 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA. He's won his last two despite allowing five total home runs, including a three-run shot in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 6-4 win over Arizona. The right-hander will get his first look at Anthony Rizzo, who is making a quick impact for the Cubs after being called up last week. Rizzo hit his first homer Saturday in a win over Houston, then drove in the Cubs' first run in a 3-0 victory Sunday as Chicago completed a three-game sweep - matching the team's longest win streak of the season. The Cubs finished a 5-1 homestand, but they have lost four straight on the road. They're 10-29 as the visiting team at the start of this seven-game trip. That record doesn't figure to improve unless Jeff Samardzija (5-7, 5.05) can put a stop to an ugly stretch. Samardzija has a 12.27 ERA while losing his last four starts. The right-hander yielded a career-high nine runs Wednesday, giving up two homers and walking four in 4 1-3 innings of a 17-1 loss to the New York Mets. Samardzija was much better against Hanson and the Braves on May 7, allowing one run and five hits while striking out seven in seven innings to earn the win.
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