Braves-Diamondbacks Preview

With their offense clicking on all cylinders, the Atlanta Braves

are quickly making up for their brutal start to the season.

The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be headed in the opposite

direction.

The surging Braves try for a ninth win in 10 games as they

continue a four-game set with the Diamondbacks, who are hoping to

avoid losing four straight at home for the first time in over a

season Friday night.

Since opening with four consecutive defeats – its worst start

since losing its first 10 in 1988, Atlanta (8-5) has proven nearly

unbeatable. The Braves have averaged 7.2 runs while batting .298

with runners in scoring position during their 8-1 run.

One night after posting its highest run total of the season

during a 14-6 win over the New York Mets, Atlanta went 4 for 12

with runners in scoring position during Thursday’s 10-2 win at

Arizona (7-6). Freddie Freeman continued his recent tear at the

plate, going 3 for 5 with a pair of two-run homers and a

career-high five RBIs.

Mike Minor, meanwhile, added to the Diamondbacks’ recent

struggles, allowing one earned run and striking out nine over a

career-best eight innings.

Arizona, which won four straight and five of six to open its

season, has since dropped five of seven – including three in a row

at home. The Diamondbacks haven’t lost four straight at Chase Field

since Sept. 4-7, 2010.

“Baseball,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “It’s not fun to be a part

of it, but you have to endure these times. We’ve been through it

before, last year.”

Already without injured outfielder Chris Young (right shoulder

contusion), Arizona was forced to leave two-time All-Star Justin

Upton (jammed left thumb) out of the starting lineup for the third

consecutive game. It’s unknown if Upton will be able in this

one.

“Every morning when I get up it’s a little better, which is a

positive sign,” Upton, who’s batting just .212 with no homers in

nine starts, told the team’s official website. ” … We’ll see how

it is (Friday).”

Looking to take advantage of the Diamondbacks’ injury-stricken

lineup is Brandon Beachy (1-1, 0.75 ERA), who surrendered an

unearned run and three hits over seven innings of Sunday’s 7-4 win

over Milwaukee. The hard-throwing right-hander has made it through

at least seven innings just three times in 30 career starts.

“(Pitching to contact) is going to help me get to the seventh

and eighth inning, having a few quick innings,” he said. “I was

able to do that, and that comes from getting ahead in the count and

throwing the ball over the plate.”

In his only appearance against the Diamondbacks, Beachy gave up

one run, four hits and stuck out seven in six innings of an 8-1

home win Aug. 20.

The Diamondbacks will send Trevor Cahill (1-0, 1.35) to the

mound in hopes of getting back on track. Acquired via trade from

Oakland during the offseason, Cahill has limited opponents to a

.143 average over his first two outings.

The 24-year-old sinkerballer was at his best during Sunday’s 5-2

win at Colorado, surrendering one run and four hits over 7 1-3

innings.

“Trevor Cahill is a big-time sinker ball guy and he threw some

very good ones today,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

“This is a guy that if you’re going to succeed against him, you

definitely have to force him to raise the ball up, because if in

fact you don’t, there’s going to be an awful lot of groundballs hit

against him. That’s how good his sinker is.”

Cahill will need to be wary of Freeman, who’s gone 7 for 13 with

three homers and 10 RBIs in his last three games.