Streaking Cubs aim to sweep Braves (Jul 19, 2017)

ATLANTA — With the Chicago Cubs’ rotation nearly restored to its original condition, Mike Montgomery could be making his final start on Wednesday.

The left-hander may be the odd man out when Kyle Hendricks returns from the disabled list. Montgomery (1-6, 4.01 RA) could find himself a victim of numbers, especially since the Cubs traded for starter Jose Quintana last week.

Montgomery will oppose Atlanta’s R.A. Dickey (6-5, 4.08) in the finale of the three-game series. The Cubs won the first two games, including a 5-1 victory on Tuesday night, and they are riding a season-best, five-game winning streak.

Montgomery will be making his eighth start of the season and his fifth on the road. He joined the rotation when Hendricks was placed on the disabled list on June 8. He is 1-3 with a 5.77 ERA as a starter and has limited opponents to a .244 batting average. Montgomery has never faced Atlanta.

He may need to do something dramatic to keep his spot when Hendricks is ready to return. Hendricks was 16-8 and a vital piece of last year’s championship rotation. Manager Joe Maddon said Hendricks, who is with the team in Atlanta, will have another workout before a final decision is made.

“He was happy with the way he’s thrown the ball, happy with the way he feels,” Maddon said. “His last start he felt good, but he wasn’t sharp. It’s a combination of feeling good and being able to throw the ball where he wants.”

In two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee, Hendricks is 0-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 innings.

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Dickey, the veteran knuckleballer, will make his 19th start of the season. He has had a frustrating month, compiling a 1.42 ERA in three starts but failing to earn a decision. In eight starts since June 1, Dickey is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA.

Dickey has made only two previous starts against Chicago, going 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA.

“You don’t think about it when you’re out there, you just pitch,” Dickey said of his recent unlucky streak. “I just try to keep people off base. (Against Arizona on Friday), probably four of their eight hits were hit well and the other four weren’t hit so well.”

The Cubs will start Victor Caratini behind the plate. Maddon has wanted to give Caratini, a former Atlanta Braves farmhand, more playing time. However, that plan was delayed by the current hot streak of Willson Contreras, who has caught the first five games of the road trip and is 9-for-22 (.402) with two homers and seven RBIs on the trip.

Atlanta will welcome Arodys Vizcaino back to the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has been on the disabled list since July 5 with a right index finger strain. The Braves will need to make a roster move before activating Vizcaino and are trying to decide whether to stick with their current seven-man bullpen or add another reliever.

“We’re still chewing on that,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.

The Cubs are trying to complete a perfect road trip. They began the trip with three wins against Baltimore before cooling off the Braves, who entered the series with a three-game winning streak. The defending World Series champions have pulled to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

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