To set the stage for this one, both teams have something to play for — the Braves are simply going for homefield throughout the entire Postseason and they can get it with either a win or an Orioles loss at any point from here on out. The Cubs are still fighting for their Postseason lives and can ill-afford a sweep at this particular juncture.
As such, the Cubs are turning to Marcus Stroman to help them as their starting pitcher tonight. Stroman’s had a solid season but he’s had a very rough go of it during the second half of the season. He’s been dealing with injury woes in the latter half of his campaign and he hasn’t pitched longer than four innings since July 15. Granted, his first two appearances following his return from injury were relief stints and he’s only made one start since returning.
That happened back on September 23, which is when he went three innings and gave up five hits and three runs with two strikeouts against the Rockies. The Cubs went on to win that game after turning it around following Stroman’s departure from the game but he’ll be facing a very tough task trying to slow down Atlanta’s lineup tonight for however long that he’s going to be on the mound in this one.
Meanwhile, Battery Power’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year is toeing the rubber for the Braves to start tonight’s game. AJ Smith-Shawver will be making his sixth major league start of the season. His first two starts went about as well as you could ask from a rookie while his most recent pair of starts at this level weren’t exactly so great.
Obviously, we’re all hoping that he’ll be able to give the Braves something more akin to what he delivered back in June against the Rockies and Nationals. If that’s the case, then he’ll be able to keep the Braves in the game at the very least and as we’ve seen time and time again, if the Braves are still alive then they’re going to fight for every single out that they have at their disposal. Smith-Shawver has had a very good season in the minors and hopefully he’ll be able to add on that by finishing his first real major league experience with a flourish.
Again, the stakes are still pretty high for both teams in this one. The Cubs are fighting to ensure that they’ll punch their ticket to October while the Braves are trying to make sure that they’ll be entering any given series in the Postseason with the upper hand in terms of homefield advantage. Chicago obviously has the higher stakes in this one, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see them come out with a serious level of intensity considering what’s on the line. Still, the Braves have proven that they’re not going to roll over in this series and if the Cubs are going to get anything from this series, they’re really going to have to earn it.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, September 28, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports South, MLB Network (out-of-market only)
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan