The Atlanta Braves take on the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night in game three of their three-game series from Wrigley Field in Chicago. The two teams split the first two games, leading to a scenario where Sunday’s winner can clinch the weekend series. The Braves took game one on Friday 5-2 but then the Cubs stormed back to win 13-4 on Saturday afternoon. Both of these teams made the playoffs last year and have high hopes for this season, especially Atlanta’s young core, but it’s been a disappointment of sorts so far. Both teams are sitting under .500 and need a series win to get the momentum going in the right direction towards the midweek. Which team will finish the series with a bang on Sunday night?
Braves Leaning Heavily On AcunaThe Braves have been the hit of social media highlights in a season where Ronald Acuna Jr. is trying to stake claim to the most exciting player in baseball. Acuna Jr. is hitting an absurd .429 on the year, good for fourth in baseball, with seven home runs and 16 RBIs, which are both tops in baseball. Ozzie Albies is day to day so might not make an appearance on Sunday, which will really test the offensive depth of this team. Of players who play on a continual basis, nobody else is hitting over .300 on the season. Freddie Freeman has four home runs himself on the year but is only hitting .212, which is still better than the majority of the starters. That isn’t a good sign for the Braves offense and the hitting and getting base runners need to improve quickly if they want to turn this thing around.
According to ESPN, Bryce Wilson is expected to make his first appearance of the season when he takes the mound on Sunday night in front of a national television audience. The youngster who has spent the last few years in and out of the minor leagues in the Braves’ system had an impressive spring training, so it’s not a surprise to see him get a chance as a starter sooner rather than later. In the spring he appeared in four games, starting three, going 2-0 with an ERA of only 1.98 across 13.2 innings. He did surrender 15 hits and four walks but was constantly able to deal himself out of pressure and allowed only three earned runs.
Last year Wilson appeared in six games at the big league level, going 1-0 with an ERA of 4.02, which was an improvement on his MLB ERA in 2019 of 7.20 across six games and starts. If Wilson isn’t able to hang and has to hand it off to the bullpen, the Braves should still be in good shape. Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, and Huascar Ynoa have all been great in relief this year and Ynoa is the only one of those three to give up a run. It actually wouldn’t be surprising to see one of those guys can an extended run on Sunday night.
Cubs Offense Finding FormThe Cubs’ offense finally came to life after weeks and weeks of appearing to be dormant, by scoring 13 points against the Braves on Saturday. The Cubs also added 14 hits and nearly everyone got onto the action which has to be a good sign that maybe the bats could turn the corner to finish out the weekend. Chicago had six home runs in the game and couldn’t have been seeing the ball any better than they were on Saturday afternoon. Despite the offensive explosion, the Cubs still have no starters from Saturday’s game that are hitting over .300, which continues to be for another week. Wilson Contreras leads with a .282 batting average and five home runs, while Javier Baez leads with 11 RBIs but is only hitting .192 on the year. If the Cubs can even get a fraction of the offense on Sunday that they did on Saturday, they should be in good shape to take the weekend series.
According to MLB.com, Kyle Hendricks is expected to get his third start of the season on Sunday against the Braves. Hendricks sat out his last start due to not feeling great, and is 0-1 on the season after two starts with an ERA of 3 after allowing eight hits and three runs in nine innings, striking out ten. His last start against the Brewers saw him six innings of shutout baseball after a spring training for him that was interesting, to say the least. In four starts he went 2-0, but had an ERA above 6 and allowed nine earned runs and 17 hits across 12.2 innings.
According to ESPN, Atlanta hitters have 68 at-bats against Hendricks all time. Across that span, they have 22 hits, five doubles, three home runs, and 13 RBIs. Overall, the Braves have a batting average against of .321 against Hendricks and should ride some confident bats into Sunday’s matchup.
The top team trends according to Winners and Whiners are: - Cubs are 0-4 in Hendricks' last 4 starts. - Cubs are 0-4 in Hendricks' last 4 starts on grass. - Cubs are 1-5 in Hendricks' last 6 starts during game 3 of a series. - Cubs are 2-8 in their last 10 games following a win.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Cubs’ offense isn’t consistent enough for a game of this magnitude, even despite how many points they put up on Saturday. Chicago is still only hitting .166 as a team and it’ll take more than one hot game to prove to fans and critics alike that this team’s issues are fixed. Additionally, the Braves are hitting well against Hendricks in his most recent starts against the team, with a .321 batting average against, compared to Wilson being a relative unknown to the Chicago organization, which will work in his favor. If Acuna Jr. has his eyes set on the MVP trophy, now is the time to continue his leadership and set the tone for the lineup.
Full-Game Total Pick
Wilson has yet to have much experience against the Chicago offense, but without much game film to prep their hitting on, the Cubs might be more baffled than anything else. Hendricks also had the ability to pitch lights out there and with how the Braves are hitting themselves, it doesn’t seem like runs will be flying off of the scoreboard. Additionally, according to Winners and Whiners, for the Cubs, the under is 5-0 in their last five games their opponent allowed five runs or more in the previous game and is 4-0 in Hendrick’s last four starts with ten days rest or more.