Major League Baseball

How to win $1,000 for free on Cubs vs. Braves

April 28

By Kevin Cooney
Special to FOX Sports

You can’t judge most things in baseball by April. However, you can start to identify trends about teams by the end of the month: what they do well and, just as importantly, what they don't.

The Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves are two prime examples of that in the early going. Both have some big strengths and some hideous weaknesses through the first 20-plus games of the season. On Wednesday in Atlanta (7:20 p.m., FS1), they will meet for the third game of a four-game series that could give some more answers on what lies ahead for both.

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In that spirit, here are six things you should know about the Cubs and Braves.

1) The Cubs' offense has been putrid lately.

After Tuesday night’s game, the Cubs ranked 27th in the majors and worst in the National League in OPS from the seventh inning onward, at .604 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 219 at-bats with a .183 batting average. That is a large reason Chicago entered Wednesday last in the NL Central, with a 10-13 record.

2) The Braves' offense hasn’t been much better.

Again, small sample here, but Atlanta’s batting average has been even worse from the seventh inning onward. The Braves are hitting .180 with eight homers and 25 RBIs, thus leading to a more respectable but still not great .645 OPS (18th in the majors).

3) Pitching a fit

If you are looking for the Cubs' and Braves' pitching stats, avert your eyes. Chicago’s ERA of 4.61 is 28th in Major League Baseball heading into Wednesday, but it’s better than the Braves' 4.67 ERA.

That largely comes down to starting pitching. The Braves' starters are throwing to a 4.97 ERA through 23 starts. The Cubs are getting a 5.19 ERA from their starters. Only the Nationals and Angels are worse.

4) Ronald Acuña Jr. is that good.

Back from an abdominal injury, Acuña smacked a 481-foot homer on Tuesday in a 5-0 win. Acuña’s eight homers were tied for the major-league lead heading into Tuesday, and his 1.233 OPS is just out of this world.

He is one of the game’s treasures. Watching him is a treat on a nightly basis.

5) Kris Bryant is having a great "walk" year so far.

The dream for any player in the final year before free agency is to stay healthy and post monster numbers that look great to teams looking to spend in the offseason.

This is the Cubs’ third baseman’s final contract year in Chicago before he hits the open market, and he has a .289 average, six homers, 16 RBIs and a .993 OPS so far. If the Cubs fall out of contention, there will be teams interested in a deadline trade for Bryant. No matter what, he will have a big market this winter.

6) Hanging around

The best part of things so far for the Braves and Cubs is that a real leader has yet to emerge in the NL East or Central.

Everyone in the NL East is bunched within a two-game gap of one another. And even with their struggles, the Cubs are within shouting distance of the Brewers in the Central. It’s early, but both teams could end up in the playoff hunt despite their slow starts.

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