The Atlanta Braves emerge from the All-Star break on Friday when they open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field. The Braves stumbled into the break dropping their last five games including a four-game sweep by the Rockies in Colorado.
The second half begins with Atlanta at perhaps its lowest point of the season. At 42-47, the Braves find themselves six games out of the playoff picture. The Braves have struggled to score runs consistently this season and the recent absence of Freddie Freeman hasn't helped the situation. Freeman has been out since June 18 with a wrist injury and the original hope was that he would be ready to return in Friday's series opener. However, Freeman's injury proved to be worse than was originally thought and he likely won't be back in the Braves' lineup before August.
Cameron Maybin has done his best to pick up the slack and is hitting .333 in July. He is one of several Braves players who can expect to hear their names mentioned in numerous trade rumors between now and the July 31 deadline.
Chicago begins the second half with a one game lead for the final wild card spot over the New York Mets. The Cubs are seven games above .500 and look like they will be in the playoff race for the remainder of the season. Chicago has a nice mix of veterans and young players led by Anthony Rizzo and rookie slugger Kris Bryant. The duo has combined for 28 home runs and 99 RBIs so far this season.
Julio Teheran gets the call for the Braves on Friday and luckily for Atlanta, he has been a much different pitcher at home this season. Teheran is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA this season at Turner Field, but is 1-4 with a 6.95 ERA on the road. Just three of the 16 home runs allowed by Teheran this season have come in home starts. He will be opposed by Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks who is 4-4 on the season, but is 2-0 over his last three starts and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 20 1/3 innings.
Manny Banuelos will take the ball on Saturday for Atlanta and will be trying to continue what has been a good start to his career. Banuelos has allowed one run over his first 12 professional innings and will be seeking his second win of the season. He is nearing his innings limit for the season and Saturday's start could end up being his last before finishing the season in the bullpen as a reliever. Banuelos will be opposed by Jon Lester who is 4-8 and has suffered from a lack of run support. Lester is 0-2 in his last three starts, but has a 1.71 ERA over that span.
Shelby Miller gets the start on Sunday and is looking to snap a 10 start winless streak. Miller was Atlanta's lone All-Star representative, but did not pitch in the All-Star Game. He is looking to bounce back from a rare tough start in which he allowed five runs in five innings in a loss to the Rockies. Miller will be opposed by Jake Arrieta who has been lights out in his last three outings going 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA.
Friday, July 17, 7:35 p.m. ET
Kyle Hendricks (CHI)
17 starts, 4-4 W-L, 3.55 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 1.5 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, 0.8 HR/9
Julio Teheran (ATL)
18 starts, 6-4 W-L, 4.56 ERA, 4.65 FIP, 3.2 BB/9, 7.1 K/9, 1.3 HR/9
Saturday, July 18, 7:10 p.m. ET
Jon Lester (CHI)
18 starts, 4-8 W-L, 3.59 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 0.8 HR/9
Manny Banuelos (ATL)
2 starts, 1-0 W-L, 0.75 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 3.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 0.8 HR/9
Sunday, July 19, 5:05 p.m. ET
Jake Arrieta (CHI)
18 starts, 10-5 W-L, 2.66 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 1.8 BB/9, 9.1 K/9, 0.6 HR/9
Shelby Miller (ATL)
18 starts, 5-5 W-L, 2.38 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 0.5 HR/9