What to watch: Cubs at Braves

What to watch: Cubs at Braves
April 7, 2013, 1:30 am
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Tony Andracki

First pitch: 12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. Cubs Postgame Live with hosts David Kaplan and Todd Hollandsworth follows the game.

On the mound: Jeff Samarzija vs. Tim Hudson

Samardzija was phenomenal on Opening Day, hurling eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and walking one batter. The 28-year-old is hoping to develop into a true ace this season and he's off to a great start.

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But given the Cubs' bullpen struggles already this season, Samardzija may have to do it all himself if he wants to be assured of a second straight victory.

Hudson is winding down what has been an amazing career. He is three wins shy of 200 and boasts a career 3.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. As the Braves' ace, the 37-year-old veteran has won at least 16 games for three straight seasons.

Today's storyline: The Cubs' bullpen

Every time Samardzija takes the mound, he gives the Cubs a very good chance to win. But if he doesn't toss a complete game, manager Dale Sveum will have to dip into his bullpen. Carlos Marmol has struggled mightily and may have very well just lost his job as the closer. Kyuji Fujikawa appeared to be the next in line for save opportunities, but he gave up three runs in the eighth inning Saturday and now carries an 11.57 ERA on the season.

[MORE: Another Marmol meltdown forces Cubs to look at other options]

James Russell and Shawn Camp have been effective in the early going again this season, so either could be called upon in the ninth inning, depending on the matchup.

What else to watch for

The Cubs' offense had been near non-existent for the first four games of the season, but broke out Saturday in Atlanta, racking up 13 hits -- including two doubles and two homers -- and five runs while taking three walks. But that was against Julio Teheran, the Braves inexperienced No. 5 starter. Can they do the same against Hudson?

The last word

The Cubs have already lost the series after Saturday's bullpen meltdown, but they will have to pull out a win in the finale to avoid a sweep. Chicago is in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season, and it will be tough to keep their head above water if they start out 0-3.