Based on the way the Atlanta Braves have played of late, Los Angeles' Zack Greinke could have a hard time trying to end his recent struggles overall and against the NL East leaders.
The right-hander looks to avoid a fourth consecutive rough outing and help the Dodgers prevent the visiting Braves from a sixth straight victory Thursday night.After losing two of three to open an eight-homestand, Atlanta (37-22) won the last five, capped with a 5-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Julio Teheran came within four outs of a no-hitter and rookie Evan Gattis hit his 13th homer as the Braves won for the 15th time in 19 games.Atlanta has homered 29 times and posted a 2.48 ERA during that span."We're playing winning baseball right now," outfielder Jason Heyward told the Braves' official website. "Everybody's contributing in their own way, timely hits, we're playing pretty good defense and our pitchers are keeping runs off the board."We'll go out and have some fun, a change of scenery a little bit, time change out there, but go play baseball and have fun."With a three-game home sweep of Los Angeles (25-33) last month, Atlanta has won six of eight against the Dodgers.Greinke (2-1, 4.80), who is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts against the Braves, certainly has his work cut out for him in the opener.He allowed a home run through 5 1/3 innings of a 3-1 victory over Washington on May 15 in his return from missing more than a month with a broken collarbone. Since then, Greinke is 0-1 with an 8.78 ERA in three starts, allowing 28 hits and walking seven.Greinke yielded four runs and nine hits while walking three in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-6, 10-inning loss at Colorado on Saturday."I haven't pitched well a whole lot this year," he told the Dodgers' official website. "I expected to do better the first couple of outings than I have. I've got to make the adjustments and pitch better."Los Angeles fell short in its bid for a three-game home sweep of San Diego with a 6-2 loss Wednesday.Highly touted Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig went 5 for 8 with two homers and five RBIs in his first two games, but was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Wednesday."He's going to be fine, he's going to make outs," manager Don Mattingly said.Adrian Gonzalez drove in a run and is batting .419 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his last 12 games. He's hit .471 (8 for 17) with two home runs versus Atlanta starter Tim Hudson (4-4, 4.80).The veteran right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.33 ERA in five starts since beating the New York Mets on May 5, but he allowed an unearned run and three hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 2-1, 10-inning victory over Washington on Saturday."I felt pretty good out there," Hudson said. "I think (pitching coach Roger McDowell) and I made some pretty good work in my bullpen sessions between starts."The Braves hope the recent stride Hudson made will help improve his performance on the road, where he is 1-4 with a 7.67 ERA in six starts. He's 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in seven at Dodger Stadium.Heyward went 6 for 14 in the Pittsburgh series, but is 4 for 45 (.089) on the road this season. He's batting .119 (5 for 42) lifetime at Chavez Ravine.