The Atlanta Braves will take their run-scoring machine to Wrigley Field on Monday to open a four-game series against the host Chicago Cubs in a battle of first-place teams in the National League.
The Braves have reached double-digit runs six times in June, including five games in which they scored at least 12 runs. The most recent came Saturday in a 13-9 shootout against the Washington Nationals.
It made the Braves' victory Sunday tame by comparison. In fact, Atlanta needed 10 innings to earn a 4-3 triumph over the Nationals, the Braves' 13th victory over their last 16 games. The Braves have won five consecutive series.
The Nationals tied Sunday's game against the Braves with a two-run seventh inning, hardly a worry considering Atlanta's recent penchant for doing whatever it takes to win. On Saturday, the Braves trailed 8-4 against the Nationals after six innings. They scored four in the seventh, four more in the eighth and one in the ninth for the victory.
It was the fourth time this year they erased a four-run deficit in the seventh inning or later.
"I think the more you do it, that's when you start saying, 'Wow, we can keep doing this over and over again,'" Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said on MLB.com. "As much as I'd like to win without heart-racing moments like this, it's pretty spectacular what this team is doing. It's really hard to put in perspective what we're doing."
The Cubs, meanwhile, needed some late-game heroics from Javier Baez on Sunday against the New York Mets to prevent their first three-game losing streak at home this season.
The Cubs split the four-game series against the Mets and have dropped eight of their last 13, even while winning Sunday, but have managed to not lose more than two consecutive in the stretch.
Baez's go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning, to earn a 5-3 victory, was the 100th of his career. The infielder took a curtain call after the blast, roaring back to an appreciative crowd with fists clenched.
"I thought (100) would be a little earlier in my career, but good timing it is here now," Baez said on MLB Network Radio. "It was big. After the (2-5) road trip that we had, we came home, got comfortable and then this happened. We were down in the game and the series and we came back."
The Cubs will send left-hander Jon Lester (6-5, 4.13 ERA) to the mound against the Braves on Monday, five days after a 114-pitch victory over the Chicago White Sox. It is the second time he has thrown that many pitches in a game this season.
Lester had a 116-pitch victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on May 12, and then six days later he gave up five runs on a season-high 10 hits in a loss to the Washington Nationals. He is 6-2 lifetime against the Braves in 10 starts with a 2.52 ERA.
The Braves will counter with right-hander Julio Teheran (5-5, 3.40), who is looking to recover from one of his worst outings of the season when he gave up six runs on a season-high eight hits in a loss to the New York Mets. Teheran is 3-1 in nine lifetime starts against the Cubs with a 3.29 ERA.
--Field Level Media
Cubs host high-scoring Braves in showdown of division leaders