Cubs’ Javier Assad aims for repeat performance vs. Braves

Chicago Cubs right-hander Javier Assad will try to duplicate his most recent outing against the Atlanta Braves when the teams open a three-game series on Tuesday night in Chicago.

Assad (4-0, 1.49 ERA) pitched six scoreless innings against the Braves on Wednesday and matched his season high with seven strikeouts. He will be opposed Tuesday by Atlanta veteran right-hander Charlie Morton (3-1, 3.52) in a rematch of the game the Cubs won 7-1.

The Braves won two of three against the Cubs last week in Atlanta but followed that by dropping three of four against the San Diego Padres. The Braves won the series finale 3-0 to end a four-game losing streak.

The Cubs lost three of four in their just-completed home series against Pittsburgh and were beaten 3-2 on Sunday. Chicago has lost five of its last seven games.

Assad has combined with Shota Imanaga to create quite a one-two punch. Imanaga leads the majors with a 0.84 ERA and Assad ranks No. 3.

“He’s pitching at an elite level,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “It is just exceptional what he is doing. He’s off to a wonderful start, and I’m happy for him.”

Assad is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against Atlanta.

Morton pitched a season-low three innings against Chicago. He allowed a home run on the first pitch of the game and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits, with three walks.

“I think I just look at how I threw the ball, and what can be improved and what not,” Morton said. “I look at the pitches that I made, I look at what happened. It’s like, what could I have done differently? How far off am I? And two, you don’t want to take one outing and one inning and say, ‘Oh, something’s really wrong here.'”

Morton has made 19 career starts against the Cubs, going 4-8 with a 5.38 ERA. He is 1-5 with a 5.86 ERA in nine starts at Wrigley Field.

“He’s been great,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said last Wednesday about Morton. “He’s been throwing as good as he has since he’s been here, honestly, until tonight. A couple things happened his way in that first inning, regardless of the home run. I mean, after that, just some ground balls finding guys or whatever, who knows, he may right the ship and end up and go five, six innings.”

Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna brings a 13-game hitting streak into this series. He went deep in both games of Monday’s doubleheader against San Diego and regained the National League lead with 14 home runs.

The Braves got catcher Travis d’Arnaud back in the lineup in the second game of the doubleheader. He had missed three games after taking a foul ball off his facemask in the final game of the Chicago series last week. He had three hits in his return.

Atlanta remains without All-Star third baseman Austin Riley, who has missed seven games because of left side tightness.

Chicago is expected to get shortstop Dansby Swanson (injured list, right knee) and second baseman Nico Hoerner (hamstring strain) back from injuries on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media