The Braves bats were silenced on Thursday while starter Sean Newcomb struggled with command, allowing 11 baserunners over five innings of work. Atlanta will look to improve on both fronts as they send Mike Foltynewicz to the mound to take on the Cubs and John Lackey.
Folty had been struggling severely entering his most recent start against Colorado, but in five innings of work he allowed just one run to the Rockies. He was far from perfect, as his command was not as sharp as the Braves would have hoped, but it was a stark improvement over his previous performances. The Rockies have one of the best offenses in the National League, and now Folty will get another tough test versus Chicago.
Folty enters play sporting a 4.84 ERA, which has grown more than a full run since late July. In his last seven starts, Folty has pitched into the seventh inning just once, which has placed quite a strain on a bullpen that has been greatly overworked this year with all the struggles in the rotation. Folty had been arguably the Braves’ best pitcher before entering this rough stretch, but as the calendar turns to September, the numbers indicate that there is still a great deal of work to be done before the right-hander can be relied upon consistently.
The Cubs will turn to 38-year-old veteran John Lackey to oppose the Atlanta lineup, which Lackey held to one run over five innings in a July start at SunTrust. Entering that start, Lackey led baseball in home runs allowed, and though the Braves were able to take him deep once, he was able to navigate his way into a victory. Since then, Lackey has maintained an ERA right around 5, which is less that ideal for a team looking to repeat as World Series champions.
The Braves and Cubs have few at-bats against either opposing pitcher. Nick Markakis has seen Lackey 30 times in his career, with a .300 average and a home run that came earlier this season. No other Brave has more than eight at-bats against Lackey, so the experience is lacking. The Cubs have seen even less of Mike Foltynewicz, with his one start against Chicago last season representing his only outing against them to this point.