Jake Arrieta has struck out nine or more batters in four of his last five starts, and when he takes the mound for the host Chicago Cubs on Friday in the opener of a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves, he'll face one of the top swing-and-miss teams in baseball. The Braves have fanned 777 times this season, fifth-most in the majors, and have lost four of their last five games entering the final series before the All-Star break. Atlanta sits one percentage point behind Washington in a virtual tie for the National League East lead, while the Cubs wrap up a first half that finds them buried in the NL Central cellar.Arrieta has the lowest ERA in the majors since May 3 as he missed the first month of the season with shoulder tightness. The Cubs avoided a five-game sweep at Cincinnati on Thursday, ending their six-game losing streak and winning for the first time since trading pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland on July 4. The Braves swept a three-game home series against the Cubs on May 9-11, holding Chicago to a total of four runs.TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, MLBN, SportSouth (Atlanta), CSN (Chicago) PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves LH Alex Wood (6-7, 3.14 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.78)Wood is arguably the unsung hero of Atlanta's pitching staff, getting fewer than two runs of support in six of his 10 starts and winning three games in relief. He earned a victory against the Cubs on May 9 in Atlanta and picked up a hold two days later. Wood is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three outings since rejoining the rotation, with the loss coming Sunday against Arizona despite his allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings.Arrieta is 4-0 in seven starts since the beginning of June, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Boston on June 30 and allowing one run on four hits in a no-decision Sunday at Washington. He has allowed five runs while striking out 53 in his last 45 1/3 frames. Arrieta is 9-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 21 starts since being acquired from Baltimore on July 2, 2013.WALK-OFFS1. Chicago rookie 2B Arismendy Alcantara recorded four hits and three RBIs in his second major-league game Thursday.2. Atlanta CF B.J. Upton is one RBI away from 500 for his career.3. Three Chicago starting pitchers have made their major-league debuts in the last two weeks.PREDICTION: Braves 3, Cubs 2