Braves look to walk past Zito and the Giants

The Atlanta Braves (49-39) received a solid pitching performance from an unexpected source in their most recent contest to help extend their winning streak to a season-best seven games.

Jair Jurrjens’ personal hot stretch also has been impressive given his earlier struggles.

The right-hander looks to remain unbeaten since being recalled from the minors when surging Atlanta hosts former Brave Melky Cabrera and the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants (49-40) in the opener of a three-game set Tuesday night (7:10 p.m. EDT).

The Braves opened as -154 favorites and the total checked in at 9 (Source: SportsOptions).

The Braves (49-39) completed a three-game sweep of the Mets with a 6-1 victory Sunday behind six scoreless innings from Ben Sheets, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since July 2010.

Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer and is hitting .462 during his seven-game hitting streak, while Chipper Jones went 2 for 4.

“We are ecstatic,” Jones told the team’s official website. “For (Sheets) to come in and build on our winning streak, seven-game winning streaks don’t come along very often. We (have to) keep the ball rolling.”

They seemingly have a good chance of doing so with Jurrjens on the mound.

Jurrjens (3-2, 4.97 ERA) has looked rejuvenated since being demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in late April after going 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in his first four outings. He allowed three runs in seven innings of a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on July 8, improving to 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts since being recalled June 22.

“(The demotion) was about going down there and having me correct and get back to my delivery and get my strength back again,” the 2011 All-Star said. “I’ve been working hard with (the coaches) every day and you can see the hard work paying off.”

Jurrjens is 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA in five career starts versus the Giants after allowing five runs in six innings of a 7-5 loss Aug. 17 – the only defeat Atlanta has suffered in the series’ last nine contests.

San Francisco (49-40) has surged ahead of the Dodgers in the West after completing a three-game sweep of Houston with a 3-2 victory Sunday. Buster Posey went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs to help offset the absence of Cabrera, who left the team for the birth of his child.

“I think we’ve got enough depth in the lineup where we can get the job done,” Posey said. “Obviously any time Melky’s not in there we’re going to miss him, though.”

Cabrera is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday – one week after being named All-Star game MVP in Kansas City, where he played in 2011 before being dealt to the Giants. He latched on with the Royals after being released by the Braves following a disappointing 2010 season in which he hit .255. This is his first trip back to Turner Field.

While Cabrera has certainly transformed himself since leaving Atlanta, Barry Zito would like to turn the page on his recent struggles.

Zito (7-6, 4.01) picked up a 6-5 win over Pittsburgh on July 6, but he allowed four runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings. He’s 2-4 with a 6.12 ERA over his last six starts and his 5.27 walks per nine innings since May are the third-most in the majors.

“I was just missing off the plate a few times,” Zito told the team’s official website. “I had to make some adjustments, but the (lineup) came out swinging.”

The left-hander also struggled with his control over his last four starts against the Braves, but he’s 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in those outings – all at Turner Field – despite walking 15.

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