Braves-Cubs Preview

Derek Lowe had one of his strongest performances in nearly two

months for the Atlanta Braves in his previous outing. He wasn’t as

steady in his most recent matchup with the Chicago Cubs.

The right-hander will seek a better result in his first start at

Wrigley Field since the 2008 playoffs Wednesday night and try to

lead the NL wild card leaders to a season-high seventh win in a

row.

In part of a string of dominant pitching for Atlanta, Lowe

(8-11, 4.73 ERA) gave up four hits and struck out seven in five

scoreless innings Friday during a 4-2 win over Arizona. Before

giving up four runs in the fifth inning Tuesday, the Braves (78-52)

had yielded three runs in their previous five games and produced a

30-inning scoreless streak, their longest since 36 in a row from

April 26-May 1, 1992.

That fifth inning was their only hiccup in the second of a

four-game set at Wrigley as they held on for a 5-4 win. Jason

Heyward provided most of the offense with a grand slam and Craig

Kimbrel recorded his 40th save, tying the MLB rookie record set by

Texas’ Neftali Feliz last season.

“I’ll look back on it at the end of the year,” said Kimbrel, who

has not allowed a run in his last 31 2-3 innings. “Right now, I’m

just worried about helping us win and helping us get to the

playoffs.

“It’s pretty awesome. When you’re winning games, it’s fun.”

Lowe will try to help the Braves keep rolling by putting his

struggles further behind. He was 2-5 with a 6.81 ERA in his seven

starts before Friday’s game, and has alternated losses and wins in

four outings this month. Lowe has posted a 10.80 ERA in the defeats

and a 1.64 ERA in the two victories.

His start against the Cubs (56-73) on Aug. 13 was one of those

poorer performances as he gave up five runs and a season high-tying

10 hits over six innings of an 8-4 defeat. Lowe was 4-0 with a 3.00

ERA in his 10 previous matchups, including a win for Los Angeles in

the 2008 NL division series opener in Chicago.

In his return to Wrigley, Lowe will pitch opposite Randy Wells

(4-4, 5.84), who is seeking a third straight win.

The Cubs right-hander was solid while outdueling Lowe earlier

this month, allowing two runs over five innings. He followed by

giving up four runs over seven innings to St. Louis on Friday and

avoided the loss when Chicago rallied for a 5-4 win.

Wells has allowed four runs or more in 10 of his 16 starts this

season.

Aramis Ramirez will try to help the right-hander by building on

a career-best, 5-for-5 performance Tuesday, which extended his hit

streak to 12 games. The Cubs third baseman, batting .563 with four

homers and 14 RBIs during his run, is 5 for 18 with a home run in

his career against Lowe.

“I feel pretty good,” Ramirez said.

Michael Bourn is 7 for 21 in his career against Wells and his 66

hits against the Cubs are the third-most by any player over the

last four seasons behind Ryan Braun (75) and Albert Pujols

(69).

The Braves are 22-10 at Wrigley since the start of the 2001

season, giving them the best winning percentage of any NL team.