Braves still looking for first win as they host Cubs

Field Level Media

April 01, 2019 at 7:06 am.

Sean Newcomb will be on the mound Monday when the Cubs meet the Braves. Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Newcomb will be on the mound Monday when the Cubs meet the Braves. Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Two playoff teams from last year will try to recover from rough starts Monday when the Atlanta Braves host the Chicago Cubs in their home opener.

The three-game series features the defending East Division champion Braves, who suffered a three-game sweep to Philadelphia, and the Cubs, who won their season opener and dropped the next two at Texas.

The Monday game features Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (14-11, 3.44 in 2018) against Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb (12-9, 3.90 in 2018). The teams take Tuesday off and complete the series with games on Wednesday and Thursday.

Newcomb got bumped back in the rotation so he could start the home opener against Chicago. The southpaw pitched well in the first half of 2018, going 8-5 with a 3.51 ERA, but struggled in the second half when his ERA soared to 4.58 in his final 11 starts.

Newcomb had problems with control throughout spring training. In six appearances, he struck out 15 and walked 14 in 21 innings.

He faced the Cubs once last year and received no decision while allowing two earned runs over 5 1/3 innings, posting seven strikeouts and four walks.

“For me it’s just staying more consistent with my mentality,” Newcomb said. “‘Aggressive’ is the way I usually put it.”

Hendricks signed a four-year, $55 million contract extension last month. In 2018, Hendricks recorded the second double-digit win season of his career. He made 33 starts and threw a career-high 199 innings, with an impressive 161 strikeouts and only 44 walks.

“They wanted me to be here and I felt like I needed to reciprocate and accept it,” Hendricks said of the new deal. “I love it so much here. I want to be a Cub 100 percent.”

This spring, Hendricks made five appearances and posted a 4.96 ERA over 16 1/3 innings with 14 strikeouts and five walks.

Hendricks has made four career appearances against Atlanta, three of them starts, going 1-0 with a 2.33 ERA. His last appearance against the Braves came in 2017, when he allowed two runs, one earned, over 6 2/3 innings in the victory. This will be his first appearance at SunTrust Park.

The Cubs dropped two of three in their opening series against Texas, despite scoring 28 runs — reaching double-digits twice. Chicago lost Sunday’s game 11-10 on a walkoff wild pitch.

Chicago has numerous players who are off to good starts at the plate. Javier Baez was 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers and six RBIs. Baez had five RBIs in the first two games, a feat no Cub has accomplished since Derrek Lee did it in 2005. Kyle Schwarber went 5-for-12 with two homers and Kris Bryant was 4-for-13 with a homer and three RBIs.

Atlanta was plagued by an erratic bullpen against the Phillies, including Sunday’s 5-1 loss. The relievers worked 11 1/3 innings and allowed 13 runs and five homers. Shane Carle made two appearances and allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings and gave up two homers, including a moonshot by Bryce Harper on Sunday, and was ejected when he hit the next batter, Rhys Hoskins, with a pitch. Luke Jackson has worked three innings and allowed four runs, although he threw two scoreless frames to close Sunday’s game.

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman is off to a sizzling start. He’s 6-for-10 with two doubles.