Hill Looks to Salvage Series

Rich Hill has looked like the Chicago Cubs staff ace through his first two starts.

Now, he will try to help the Cubs salvage a split of their two-game series with the Atlanta Braves as the teams meet Thursday at Turner Field.

Oddsmakers have made Chicago -1.5 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9ev total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -1.5 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Hill (2-0, 0.64 ERA) allowed just three singles in seven scoreless innings in Saturday's 7-0 home win over Cincinnati. He was coming off an impressive season debut on April 6 in which he gave up only a solo homer in seven innings of a 9-3 win at Milwaukee.

Since Aug. 26, Hill is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA in nine starts.

"Knowing you belong here is a thing you have to have," Hill said.

Hill did walk four batters on Saturday after not issuing any in spring training or his first start. Still, first-year manager Lou Piniella has certainly been impressed.

"He's serious about his business. He goes out after you throwing strikes and he changes speeds. Rich can win a lot of ballgames for us this year," Piniella said.

Chicago's real No. 1 starter, Carlos Zambrano, turned in another rough outing on Wednesday, allowing five runs in six innings without receiving a decision in an 8-6 loss to the Braves. The outing, though, actually lowered his ERA slightly to 7.77.

Mark DeRosa homered in the first inning, ending Atlanta's streak of 69 consecutive innings without allowing one.

The Cubs (5-9) have dropped seven of their last nine.

Jeff Francoeur and Scott Thorman homered for the Braves (10-4), and Kelly Johnson hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh. Atlanta, which has won three of four, leads the NL with 20 homers.

Johnson, who took over as Atlanta's second baseman and leadoff hitter after Marcus Giles left for San Diego in the offseason, went 2-for-4 one day after picking up a career-best four hits in a win over Washington.

"When he was in the minor leagues, he was our No. 1-rated hitting prospect, so I know he's gonna hit," said manager Bobby Cox. "I've seen him."

The Braves announced Wednesday that Cox, who has managed the Braves since midway through the 1990 season, agreed to a one-year contract extension that runs through 2008.

Mark Redman (0-2, 12.96) will look to help the Braves finish off the series sweep. He has given up 12 runs in 8 1-3 innings in his first two starts and lasted just 2 2-3 innings in his last outing on Friday, allowing seven runs in an 11-4 home loss to Florida.

The Braves signed Redman in March to help out an injury-plagued rotation, but his job as a starter could be in jeopardy once Lance Cormier returns from the disabled list. His competition for the final starting spot, Kyle Davies, has posted a 4.50 ERA in his two starts without receiving a decision.

"He's always been able to give a lot of innings," Cox told the Braves' team Web site of Redman. "So it's surprising that he hasn't gone deeper in games."

Redman is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs but has not faced them since July 14, 2005.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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