With key rotation member Mike Minor struggling so far in 2014, manager Fredi Gonzalez is hoping that he tries to emulate two of the league's most surprising veteran success stories this season -- one of which is his own teammate.
Gonzalez praised the starters of the Braves' clash on Thursday against the Mets, when Aaron Harang and Bartolo Colon both had impressive outings to continue their strong 2014 campaigns.
"They command all pitches and they don't panic when they get men on base," Gonzalez said. "They keep pitching and throwing strikes."
Gonzalez also wants Minor to recognize when he's at a disadvantage in a particular matchup. After giving up 22 home runs in 32 starts last year, the southpaw has allowed 14 homers in 13 starts this season.
"[Colon and Harang] know who beats them and they won't let them beat 'em even when the next guy's a lefty," Gonzalez said. "[Harang] did it with David Wright. He's knows that David Wright's hit him and he's hit him for some damage. He says, 'You know what, David, I'll face [Lucas] Duda.'"
Minor hasn't won since May 19, a span of nine starts, and his ERA has risen from 3.80 to 4.54 since then.
His counterpart on Sunday will be Edwin Jackson.
In his last start, the sometimes inconsistent Jackson took a loss against Cincinnati after giving up four runs in six innings. He also retired 13 consecutive batters at one point and had to work around a 21-minute rain delay.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria was satisfied both with Jackson's performance against the Reds and overall in 2014.
"He gives us a chance," Renteria said of the right-hander. "Every time he goes out there, I feel good that he's going to keep the game within reach."
Cubs: Alcantara to get stay with club through weekend
Arismendy Alcantara's first callup to the Majors was supposed to be for a clichéd "cup of coffee," filling in for Darwin Barney for a couple days while Barney was on the paternity list. But after making a mark in his first three Major League games, Alcantara might have earned an extended stay in the big leagues.
He went 4-for-5 with a double, triple and three RBIs in his second Major League game on Friday, then followed that up on Saturday by scoring the Cubs' walk-off run in the ninth, after singling with two outs and stealing second.
"[Alcantara has] done a lot of things that obviously have put him in a position where we had at that particular time a need, and so he was the appropriate fit," said Renteria. "So far right now, it would be impossible for somebody to do exactly what he did for the last two days every single day. That's not going to happen, but it's been a nice addition."
Barney was activated on Friday, but the Cubs decided to keep Alcantara around longer than originally planned, and will determine what to do with him long-term during the All-Star break.
Braves: Kimbrel to get more appearances in eighth inning
Braves fans might want to get used to seeing their dominant closer run out of the bullpen an inning earlier than normal.
When setup man Jordan Walden struggled to bridge the gap from Harang to Craig Kimbrel during the eighth inning of Thursday's game against the Mets, Gonzalez decided to bring Kimbrel in with two on and two outs to hold the Braves' 3-1 lead. He struck out pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end the threat, then pitched a perfect ninth to notch his fourth career four-out save.
"The more he can do that, the more you feel comfortable using [Kimbrel] in the postseason that way," Gonzalez said. "I don't feel comfortable yet using him two innings. But in the course of the year, when the situation is right, where you have him pitching four or five days, maybe you go five outs and keep working him that way, but the pitch count is the biggest thing."
Walden also gave up Justin Ruggiano's walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning on Friday.
• The Cubs have scored three runs or fewer in 51 of their 92 games (55 percent). Chicago is 9-42 when scoring three or fewer runs, and 31-10 when scoring more than four runs.
• The Braves rank first in MLB in quality starts (65).
Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.