Atlanta righty Tommy Hanson can reach double-digit wins for the fourth time in four big-league seasons tonight when the Braves host the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a four-game series at Turner Field.
A 22nd-round pick in 2005, Hanson debuted in the majors in 2009 and won 11 times in 15 decisions across 21 starts.
He was 10-11 in 34 starts a season later in 2010, then got to 11 wins against last year with an 11-7 mark in 22 outings.
Hanson was 5-4 in 2012 after an 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on May 28, but responded with an unbeaten June, winning four times in five starts to improve to 9-4 on the year and lower his earned run average to 3.59.
He was a 5-1 loser to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 7, a loss that dropped him to 0-3 against them in his career with a 4.41 ERA in 16 1/3 innings.
Tonight, Hanson will be opposed by right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who's lost four straight starts and six of his last seven decisions since beginning the year at 4-1.
The ex-Notre Dame football player had a stingy 2.89 ERA across his initial seven starts, but is 1-6 since while seeing the ERA swell to 5.05.
Samardzija was the winning pitcher in the May 7 meeting with Hanson and the Braves after allowing a run on five hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
He's 1-0 against them in seven career meetings and 2-4 in eight road starts this season.
On Sunday in Chicago, Travis Wood pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the Cubs finished off a three-game sweep, beating the Houston Astros by a 3-0 count.
Wood (3-3) remained on fire in July, holding Houston to three hits. The left-hander struck out four and did not walk any, continuing his hot hand after posting a 2.27 earned run average in June.
"That was about as good as it gets," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Wood even scored the winning run, breaking a scoreless tie in the sixth after leading off the frame with a double.
"It's hard for me to bunt him, he's actually an offensive asset when he's up there," Sveum said. "Especially against a lefty, when he can get a fastball early in the count. It was the Travis Wood show today, no doubt about it."
In Atlanta, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman had three hits, including a solo homer, and knocked in four runs as the Nationals beat the Braves 8-4 in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Braves starter Tim Hudson (6-4) allowed six runs - five earned - on eight hits and two walks while striking out four in six innings.
The Cubs won two of three games from the Braves in a May series at Wrigley Field. Atlanta won four of seven from Chicago last season. The Cubs last won the season series in 2008.