The Atlanta Braves will begin a nine-game homestand Friday with a three-game interleague series against the Chicago White Sox.
The Braves (81-54) lead the National League East, with a 5½-game lead on the Washington Nationals. After three games against Chicago and two with the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta will complete the homestand with a four-game series against Washington.
The White Sox will come to SunTrust Park with a 60-73 record. They are third in the AL Central, 22 games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
Over the last week, the Braves have gotten some unexpected offensive punch from catcher Tyler Flowers and outfielders Rafael Ortega and Matt Joyce, who have combined to hit .322 with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs and 10 walks. They helped make up for the fact that the Braves' other five starting position players were all hitting under .200 over that time span.
One thing the other starters were doing was hitting home runs, with Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson having each hit three.
Chicago comes in led by first baseman José Abreu, who is hitting .284 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs. He has been aided by third baseman Yoán Moncada, who is hitting .295 with 22 homers, and second baseman Tim Anderson, who is leading the team in batting at .329, with 14 homers.
The series will be a homecoming for the White Sox's Matt Skole, a 30-year-old first baseman and designated hitter from Woodstock. Skole, a fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2011, is hitting .226 with six RBIs in 53 at-bats.
Max Fried (14-4, 4.03 ERA) will open the series after allowing five runs and seven hits over five innings in a no-decision against the New York Mets last Saturday. The Braves have won Fried's last seven starts.
Chicago is scheduled to counter with Ivan Nova (9-10, 4.37). The veteran right-hander has won five of his last six decisions, though he earned a loss his last time out after allowing six hits and one earned run in 5 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers.
The Braves' Dallas Keuchel (5-5, 3.78) will look for his third straight victory when he gets the start Saturday. Over his last three starts, he has allowed one run and 15 hits in 19 innings.
Reynaldo Lopez (8-11, 5.08) is expected to start for the White Sox. He is coming off what may have been his best start of the season, pitching five no-hit innings and striking out six last Sunday against Texas.
Julio Teheran (8-8, 3.39) is scheduled to start the finale against Chicago's Lucas Giolito (14-7, 3.20).
On Friday, the first 15,000 fans through the gates will receive a Funko Pop figure of Freeman.
Saturday will see the gates open three hours before game time for fans to watch batting practice. There will be a college football tailgate in The Battery Atlanta as the Braves celebrate the start of the college season in earnest. The event starts at 2 p.m. and will feature live music, tailgating games and activities and special retail opportunities.
At 5:30 p.m., Erin Kirby will take the Georgia Power Pavilion Stage. The pop and R&B artist from Atlanta will perform an hour-long show as part of the Plaza Concert Series.
On Sunday, fans with a game ticket can get autographs from Braves alumni Brian Jordan, Terry Pendleton and Pete Smith at the Georgia Power Pavilion from 3-4 p.m. The first 5,000 children age 14 and under through the gates will receive a Blooper backpack clip, while DJ Steve Aoki will perform a free post-game concert inside the stadium.
ON THE AIR
All three games will air on Fox Sports South. Friday's and Saturday's broadcasts will begin at 7 p.m., with Sunday's will begin at 5 p.m. The games can also be heard on 680 AM The Fan and Rock 100.5 FM.