Breaking Down The NLDS: Braves vs. Giants

Written by Thomas on October 7, 2010 – 3:00 pm

Las Vegas has the Braves as a reasonable underdog (+140) to the Giants, but as Bobby Cox pointed out, we did take four out of seven from them in the regular season. Let’s breakdown the two clubs, position by position, to give us a better idea of who we should expect to come out on top.

(1) Starting Pitching

As good as Derek Lowe was in September, Tim Lincecum matched him by striking out 52 batters in just under 42 innings while posting a 1.94 ERA. He may not have a postseason track record, but neither did Roy Halladay.

Matt Cain has a lower ERA than Tommy Hanson, but fielding independent numbers give the nod to Tommy who has a slightly better K/BB ratio this season. Neither have pitched in the postseason, but Cain got roughed up by the Padres in his last start of the regular season. Hopefully, his failure to perform in a high leverage situation is a sign of things to come.

Sabermetricians might try to argue that Jonathan Sanchez has been better than Tim Hudson this season. Call me a homer, but I’ll take Hudson who has much better control and the ability to keep the ball on the ground.

Verdict: Assuming Derek Lowe continues to pitch like it’s September, neither team has much of an advantage.

(2) Catcher

Surprisingly enough, Buster Posey has been a little better than Brian McCann this season (.368 vs. .361 wOBA). What’s concerning about Brian is how badly he played in September. Posey on the other hand tore it up in the season’s final month producing a .256/.343/.533 line.

Verdict: Call me crazy, but Posey has the hot hand and seems to be playing his best when it matters the most. He is also at least as good, if not better, than B Mac defensively.

(3) First Base

Aubrey Huff has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season and had a decent September. Meanwhile, Derrek Lee hasn’t been himself this season but has come on strong in the final two months of the season (.899 OPS since August 1st).

Verdict: Despite Lee having pretty weak postseason numbers, I’ll take him in a heartbeat over Huff.

(4) Second Base

The Giants’ Freddy Sanchez was injured to begin the season and started out slowly upon his return. However, Sanchez finished strong in the final two months of the season and posted an OPS of .865 in September. Our Brooks Conrad is a defensively liability to put it kindly, but has flashed considerable power at the plate all season long.

Verdict: Something tells me Brooks is going to have a couple of big hits in this series, so I’ll say it’s a wash. Let’s hope he can steady his nerves in the field and avoid making a crippling error at the wrong time.

(5) Third Base

Pablo Sandoval has been abysmal this season. He has no plate discipline and hardly any power. While Omar Infante has fallen off a bit in September, he is clearly the better player right now.

Verdict: Hands down Infante

(6) Shortstop

Neither Juan Uribe nor Alex Gonzalez has any plate discipline. Both, however, have considerable power. Unfortunately, Gonzalez has been horrendous at the plate this past month and will need to give Atlanta something in the middle of the order over the course of the series.

Verdict: Gonzalez is a little better defensively, but I would much rather have Uribe’s bat.

(7-9) Outfield

Neither outfield has been very good. Pat Burrell has provided a shot to the arm for the Giants, as has Andres Torres, but anyone else they throw out there is pretty terrible. Likewise, Jason Heyward has carried the Braves outfield with help from Matt Diaz at times, but that’s about it.

Verdict: Both are pretty bad, but I would take ours only because of Jason Heyward. He is the best defensive outfielder on either team, and his patience at the plate should make him a tough out all series long.

(10-11) Bullpen and Bench

Both bullpens have been excellent this season. The Giants’ ranks second in NL ERA while the Braves’ ranks third. Billy Wagner and Brian Wilson are both excellent at the backend as well.

The Braves’ bench was clearly better prior to the injuries of Chipper and Martin Prado but no longer. We are stretched thin in the infield but have plenty of good choices for pinch hitters.

Verdict: Pretty much no advantage gained by either team. One point of concern though is that our great lefty relievers will not be as valuable against the Giants’ right handed heavy lineup.

Overall, neither team has much of an advantage over the other. You could certainly argue that the BRAVES are the favorites, but it seems to be a tossup. Both teams will showcase very good pitching staffs with average to mediocre lineups. Should be a really competitive series.


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Countdown To The All-Star Break: 9 Important Games

Written by Jonathan on July 2, 2010 – 4:05 pm

The Atlanta Braves have 3 series remaining until the All-Star break.  That’s 9 games left to make one last first half statement to the rest of the league.  Why are these games so important?  They’re all against teams in the NL East.  We kick off tonight for 3 games against the Marlins and then head to Philadelphia and New York for 3 games each against the Phillies and the Mets.

In the last 16 series, the Braves are 13-1-2 and currently sit with a 46-33 record on the season.  The Marlins series won’t be an easy one however as we’re catching the dominant portion of the Florida pitching staff.  On the bright side, however, the Braves are sending some top performers to the mound as well in the series.  Tonight Josh Johnson (8-3, 1.83) faces off against Kris Medlen (5-1 (4-0 as a starter), 3.15).  Kris’s first start as an official member of the starting rotation, now that Kenshin Kawakami has taken a role in the bullpen, will have to be a good one.  Hopefully the offense can help him out and get Johnson, who is tied with Ubaldo Jiminez for the best ERA in MLB, out of the game before the 7th.

Saturday’s matchup will be Anibal Sanchez (7-4, 3.18) against Tommy Hanson (7-5, 4.50).  Hanson has struggled as of late, getting knocked around pretty solidly in a few of his recent outings.  Roger McDowell is confident Hanson will spring back, but all eyes will be on him to see if he can get back to dominant form.  If not, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Kawakami on for him in long relief.  The final game of the series will bring Ricky Nolasco (7-6, 4.84) in to face off against Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.37).  On paper, this game favors the Braves as Hudson has been unstoppable lately and Nolasco likes to give up the long ball (19 in 16 outings this season), but he has won his last two.  Anything can happen.

I’m looking for the Braves to continue their dominance at Turner Field this weekend (their 28-9 home record is the best in MLB) and take care of business with the Marlins.  I’ll be happy with 3 more series victories heading into the All-Star break which would give us a record of at least 52-36 before the break, but why stop there?  I’ll settle for a sweep or two.


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Series Preview: The Braves Will Never Play At Home

Written by Jonathan on June 22, 2010 – 10:35 am

It seems like the Braves have played most of the season on the road, which isn’t completely true since we’ve played 31 home games; after the upcoming series we will have played 42 games on the road. There’s a highlight in this however. We’re 24-7 at home and with more home games than road games in the second half of the season, that should work out in our favor.

Going into tonight’s game against the Chicago White Sox, the Braves are 18-21 on the road. A series sweep in Chicago would bring the squad up to .500 on the road. This is far from a slam dunk however. The White Sox (while 34-34) on the season are riding a 6-game win streak, while the Braves are bringing a 5-game win streak of their own to Chicago. I’ll strategically mention now however, that the Sox had a win streak with back-to-back sweep of the Pirates and Nationals.

The White Sox are not a great offensive team, ranking 10th in the AL and 23rd in MLB in total runs scored while the Braves rank 1st in the NL and 5th in MLB. If the Braves can put some runs on the board (the White Sox are allowing 4.6 per game) then they should be alright.

The pitching matchups favor the Braves slightly in the first two games when Tommy Hanson takes on John Danks tonight and Tim Hudson faces Mark Buehrle on Wednesday. It’s anyone’s guess as to which Derek Lowe will show up to cap the series agains Gavin Floyd who has had a less than stellar season but has looked sharp in his last couple of outings.

I’d like to be able to call this one a sweep for the Braves, but I see this ending as a 2-1 series victory instead. The White Sox come into the series 10-2 in interleague play while the Braves are 7-2. I’d say their record is a little padded by the six wins over the Nationals and Pirates so hopefully the best playing team in the NL right now can bring them down to size.

…….maybe we can grab Andruw while we’re there.


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Rays Series Preview: Something’s Gotta Give

Written by Colin on June 15, 2010 – 2:31 pm

The AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays come to town today for a three game series. In an interesting matchup, the Braves – with an MLB best 19-6 home record – face three games from the team with the MLB’s best road record (the Rays are 22-8 away from home).

The first game features Kenshin Kawakami against David Price, the first overall draft pick in 2007. Kawakami is coming off his best outing of the year – allowing just four hits in six scoreless innings. Despite that, he’s still winless, and is pitching better than his 4.48 ERA indicates of late. Price is damn good. He’s 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA. We’ll have a tough time giving Kawakami the run support he needs (and deserves) against Price.

The second game features two youngsters. Tommy Hanson (6-3, 3.69) goes against Wade Davis (5-6, 4.91). Tommy has struggled with his control a bit recently, even though in his last four games he’s struck out 22 in 24 innings and featured a 2.63 ERA. Hopefully Tommy’s control issues are behind him. Wade has struggled a bit of late as well but recovered in his last outing. He’s got a mid-90s fastball and a nice curve. His slider and changeup aren’t quite as developed but you’ll see them as well.

The final game features James Shields of the Rays (5-5, 4.55) against most likely Tim Hudson. Huddy hasn’t officially been announced as the probable starter, but it should be his turn. Shields is coming off a rough start – allowing 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Marlins. Hopefully we can take him for a similar ride.

Something’s gotta give – the Braves should win at home and the Rays should live on the road. I like our odds – at least in the last two games of the series – and their offense is going to be hobbled slightly because their pitchers will have to hit. We’ll see if we can prevail over one of the hottest teams in the American league.


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Looking Forward To The Mets

Written by Jonathan on July 16, 2009 – 4:30 pm

To look forward to the Mets series to kick off the second half of the season, Colin from here at Braves Blast answered some questions for Matthew Falkenbury over at The Daily Stache.  An excerpt of the article is below and be sure to head over and check out their site (and feel free to harass them about the Mets).

Matthew Falkenbury: What has been the opinion of the Braves fans out there about the Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur deal?

Colin Ake: Francoeur came up to unbelievable hype two years ago and has not been able to meet the (admittedly unrealistic) expecations put on him by a Sports Illustrated cover calling him “The Natural.” He’s since had two subpar seasons and hasn’t been able to get back on track. The Braves coaches have been frustrated by him seemingly not being willing to learn and decided it was time to trade for someone more productive. Church will hit for more average than Francoeur but has less long-term upside, which is not an issue with the crop of outfielders (including Jason Heyward) that the Braves have coming up. It’s about a fair trade – we get for the short term someone who can hit for higher average and platoon with Matt Diaz, and the Mets get someone with larger long-term upside, IF Francoeur can turn it around. I think we all hope he turns it around – he’s a nice guy – we’d just rather not see the Mets benefit from it.

MF: Who was the Braves best player in the 1st half and who needs to step it up in the 2nd half?

CA: Best player in the first half? Brian McCann offensively, and probably Jair Jurrjens or Javier Vazquez on the mound. I’d say that the bullpen needs to be more consistent in the second half of the season, and the offense HAS to step it up. Yunel Escobar has to stop making mental errors – he’s talented but gets cocky sometimes. The collective offense just has to step it up – that’s the final answer here.

Head on over to The Daily Stache to read the rest of the article.


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Braves Take On Marlins

Written by Colin on April 14, 2009 – 12:58 pm

9th Innning: Blaine “couldn’t throw a strike the other night” Boyer in for the Braves. Somehow didn’t give up a run. Last chance for the Bravos. Worried about Chipper’s hand – he seems to have tweaked it again. Nothing doing for the Braves. Fish win 5-1 – they improve to 6-1 on the year and take over first place in the NL East.

8th Inning: Jeff Bennett pitching. Garret Anderson error (dropped foul ball?) led to a baserunner. Went downhill from there. 4 hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning led to a 5-1 Marlins lead. O’Flaherty in to pitch – instant double play to stop the pain. 5-1 Fish. Schafer led off with a single but of course nobody could put anything together to advance him.

7th Inning: Moylan on to pitch. 3 up, 3 down. Great defense by Kelly Johnson. Francoeur singled but was chopped down in a beautiful double play by the Fish.

6th Inning: Vazquez retires the side to end his outing. 12 strikeouts for Vazquez – solid stuff. Prado doubles in his pinch-hit appearance. Escobar got on base, Chipper sacrificed them to second and third to set it up for McCann. McCann ripped one to first – it was bobbled but McCann was forced out.

5th Inning: Marlins up and down. Braves strand a runner. Norton was in the on-deck circle so we’ll probably see Vazquez for another inning max.

4th Inning: Nothing doing for the Marlins. Kelly Johnson homerun makes it 3-1. Next three batters retired. 3-1 Marlins.

3rd Inning: Marlins knock in two on an Uggla single. A Vazquez wild pitch brought in another run. 3-0 Marlins. Volstad retired the side in order. He’s got a ridiculous breaking ball, by the way.

2nd Inning: Marlins had two on with two out, but unable to do anything. McCann laid down a bunt and just about beat it out (looked like he was safe on the replay) – Bobby came out to argue briefly but stays in the game. Garret Anderson and Jeff Francoeur flew out to end the 2nd. Volstad’s looking good.

1st Inning: Vazquez struck out two and got Hanley Ramirez to fly out to right. Wind is blowing left to right tonight – may be a factor on fly balls hit to right field. Bottom of the first Braves went 1, 2, 3.

When Javier Vazquez takes the mound for the Braves against the Florida Marlins’ Chris Volstad tonight, the Braves hope to walk away with another series win and an early season lead in the NL East. The Marlins are like the Braves – off to a 5-1 start. They have been cruising behind their young pitching staff – the oldest of the bunch of 26 – and Volstad is only 22.

The Braves have been riding behind solid starting pitching and a great offensive start – even if the bullpen has been shaky in an outing or two. The Braves lead the league with a .300 team batting average and a .540 slugging percentage. They’ve spread the offense out among their lineup and are very solid through and through. Javier is looking for his first win of the season as his start was spoiled by a bullpen meltdown that can only be descirbed in two ways (pick one: apocalyptic OR last season-ish). Hopefully the Braves can continue their hot start and roll their way to a 7-2 or 8-1 start – we’ll have to crack the pitching of the fish in order to do so.

What do you see happening tonight? What about the rest of the series? Anyone making it out to the park?


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Braves Trek to Philly

Written by Rue on May 13, 2008 – 10:43 am

The Braves have traveled across the Keystone state hoping to carry some momentum from a win in Pittsburgh across to the city of Brotherly Love.  We’ll be watching Jo-Jo Reyes (1-0, 2.25) face off against Kyle Kendrick (2-2, 4.93) today, Glavine (0-1, 4.03) and Brett Myers (2-3, 5.33) tomorrow, and Chuck James (2-2, 7.58) on Thursday. Please note: Three Lefties.  Charlie Manuel noted that the Phillies offense against LHPs isn’t too strong and it will certainly be quite the obstacle to overcome in this series.  The Phillies are currently a game ahead of the Braves in the NL East and a few wins in this series would be clutch for the Bravos:

Reason 1:  Road-wins are rare occurrences these days. Sure, the Braves fought off the Pirates’ sweep attempt, but much of that can be attributed to Hudson’s consistency and a few great hits.  The Braves aren’t playing poorly on the road, but they are leaving too many runners on base, and are keeping up the one-run-losses.  Road morale can’t be phenomenal, and since the Phillies are such strong NL East opponents, it is clutch to win here to lift some spirits. Ever notice how fabulously Chipper Jones is playing this season? It’s because he started strong and has continued strong… no better way to build confidence and produce results. This is something we need across the entire lineup – both offensively and defensively.

Reason 2: We need to show that our “veteran” pitchers still have it going on, but with Reyes and James pitching games 1 and 3 of this series, it’d be nice to see a few innings pitched by the guys we need to count on for the rest of the season in terms of both health and successful showings.  I want to see James pitch a little better, I’m not stunned by a 7.58 ERA, and this is a great chance for him to prove himself.

Reason 3: We need to prove one of two things: we can recover from injuries, or we can succeed without injured players. Tex is having back spasms, Francoeur’s foot woes have been a concern, our pitchers seem to live on the DL.

Here are some things to look forward to, though. The Phils are on a losing streak themselves, losing three of their last four games. In all of these losing games, they scored three or less runs. Their big bats of Chase Utley and Pat Burrell (and a typical powerhouse Ryan Howard who hasn’t been as hot, but had his fourth triple on Sunday) weren’t as big in the last series, and are now looking at a 21-18 record.  The Braves need to ensure that the defense takes care of these heavy hitters, because sure enough they will come alive again.


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Andruw, Dodgers Head Into Town

Written by Jonathan on April 18, 2008 – 12:22 pm

The Braves (6-9) come home from their long road trip to square off against the Dodgers (7-8) in a matchup that will bring Andruw Jones back to Atlanta for the first time in an opposing uniform. The Braves are looking to carry some offensive momentum from last night’s thrashing of the Marlins back into Turner Field and hopefully get a little bit of a win streak going.

Projected Starters:
Friday: Jeff Bennett (0-0, 5.52, RHP) vs. Derek Lowe (1-0, 1.80, RHP)
This is looking to be much more of an offensive outing than a pitching matchup. Bennett is either on or he’s off; there’s no real middle ground for him. He’s gotten into a little trouble in long relief this season, but I think he’ll serve well in his role as a spot starter. Of course, with how fast our pitchers are falling, our spot starters will be our entire rotation soon.

Saturday: Tom Glavine (0-1, 2.38, LHP) vs. Chad Billingsley (0-2, 5.59, RHP)
Glavine is still a little bit of a cause for worry after leaving his last start without recording an out. He had a pitching session on Wednesday and said he feels good enough to go on Saturday and avoid a trip to the disabled list. I’m still a little worried about this and don’t want him to hurt himself any worse than he already is. Who knows, I could just be being to precautionary on this one. On the bright side, he faces off against Chad Billingsley who has struggled to find control so far this season.

Sunday: Jair Jurrjens (1-2, 3.93, RHP) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.89, RHP)
Jurrjens had a hard time getting the ball over the plate in his last outing, throwing only about half of his pitches for strikes. He still managed, however, to only give up 2 earned runs. Unfortunately, the offense provided little support for him and he earned the loss. His record isn’t exactly telling of how well he has been throwing the ball this season, so I’m looking for another strong outing out of JJ.

Offensive Matchup:
The Braves’ offense continues to be streaky at best. I’ve said it too many times in the past week or so, but when we’re up in a game, the offense is on and can keep laying it on. Last night is a prime example with 15 hits and five home runs. However, in clutch situations, the offense is just flat. In the rare occurances that we’re getting runners on base with less than two outs, we’re stranding them or hitting into double plays.

The Dodgers are second in the NL with a team batting average of .275; the Braves are third with a .274. In the same number of games however, the Braves have plated 10 more runs (80-70) and have 10 more home runs (21-11). It should be a good matchup to watch.

Prediction:
On the strength of coming home from the long road trip and finally being back in front of the home crowd for motivation, I’m giving this one to the Braves 2-1.


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Braves, Nationals Look For Wins

Written by Jonathan on April 11, 2008 – 6:46 pm

The Braves (3-6) are looking to bounce back from a rough series in Colorado with a three-game set against the Washington Nationals (3-7).  The Braves have lost three straight while the Nationals, after having started 3-0, have lost their last seven games.  One of the two teams is looking to get headed back in the right direction this weekend.

Projected Starters:
Friday: Tim Hudson (0-0, 3.46, RHP) vs. Matt Chico (0-0, 5.56, LHP)
Tim Hudson had a great season against the Nationals in 2007, going 4-0 with a 0.60 ERA through 30 innings.  He didn’t fair quite as well on opening night, landing with a no decision on lack of run support from the offense.

Saturday: John Smoltz (1-0, 0.00, RHP) vs. John Lannan (0-0, 2.70, LHP)
John Smoltz is making his second start off of the disabled list, having pitched 5 scoreless innings against the Mets last weekend.  His shoulder and neck were still bothering him a little bit after that game so we’ll have to keep an eye on it through this game to see how he fairs.

Sunday: Tom Glavine (0-0, 0.79, LHP) vs. Tim Redding (0-0, 0.82, RHP)
In the battle of two strong starters that have yet to have a decision in a game this season, Tom Glavine and Tim Redding face off in a Sunday afternoon matchup.  This game should come down to which offense can get the bats going early and keep the offense coming throughout the game.

Offensive Matchup:
The Braves have struggled to get the offense going in the past few games, as have the Nationals, who have dropped 7 straight games.  It will be interesting to see if either team can end their offensive struggles in this series.  The key for the Braves offense is to start getting men on base earlier in the innings; we always seem to get them on base with two outs.

Prediction:
It’s hard to say how this series will go given that the teams combined have lost 10 in a row.  The critical point for the Braves’ success is to stop allowing opposing teams to get leadoff base runners.  Rough prediction: Braves 2, Nationals 1.


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Braves Take First Trip Out West

Written by Charles on April 7, 2008 – 1:10 pm

The Braves will be taking a trip out to Colorado to play a 4 game set against the Rockies this week. The Rockies are off to a 1-5 start so far this year, but after seeing them break all kinds of winning streak records on their way to the World Series last year we all know they are easily capable of sweeping the whole series if the Braves aren’t careful.

Projected Starters:
Monday: Tom Glavine (0-0, 1.80, LHP) vs. Aaron Cook (0-1, 6.00, RHP)
Taking the mound tonight for the Braves will be Tom Glavine, who graciously agreed to not pitch yesterday’s game so Smoltz could avoid the cold, thin mountain air. Glavine has had some past success at Coors, being the only pitcher to have more than one shutout at Coors Field. Unfortunately for the Braves, the last one of those was more than 10 years ago in 1997. Glavine will be facing off against Aaron Cook, who’s looking to put in a better performance than his first start in which he gave up 6 runs in 6 innings of work.

Tuesday: Jair Jurrjens (1-0, 3.38, RHP) vs. Ubaldo Jiminez (0-1, 5.40, RHP)
Jurrjens looks to continue the momentum from spring training and his first start against the Pirates to secure another win. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in and get the needed run support from the offense. Jiminez is looking to find a little more control during this matchup after walking 5 in 5 innings in his last outing. He gave up 3 runs in 5 innings of work so he’s looking to keep the ball a little more over the plate while giving up fewer hits to the powerful, though streaky, Braves offense.

Wednesday: Chuck James (0-0, -.–, LHP) vs. Mark Redman (0-1, 6.35, LHP)
Chuck James is making his first start of the season, coming off of the disabled list. He’ll face off against journeyman and former Braves pitcher, Mark Redman. The Rockies are the 8th team that Redman has pitched for in the past 10 seasons. Redman has struggled to find consistency throughout his career and his first start of the season was no different, giving up 5 runs and 9 hits in 5.2 innings of work.

Thursday: Tim Hudson (1-0, 3.46, RHP) vs. Jeff Francis (0-1, 7.11, LHP)
Tim Hudson has looked strong thus far in the season and is looking for his second win. He had a no decision in the season opener against the Nationals and will hopefully get the needed run support in this outing. Jeff Francis is looking to bounce back from a miserable first outing of the season where he gave up 12 hits and 5 runs in 6.1 innings. If the Braves can duplicate that kind of offense against them, I look to see an easy win for Hudson.

Offensive Matchup:
As far as offense is concerned, there should be plenty to go around. The Rockies are currently last in the NL in runs scored, but don’t expect that trend to continue for much longer. These two teams last year combined for over 1600 runs and it’s only a matter of time before the Rockies join the Braves near the top of the runs scored category. I’d also look for Matt Holiday to break out of his 4 for 22 start, as he is far too good of a hitter to keep that pace up for long. This should be a very exciting and nerve racking series to watch. The Braves bullpen hasn’t exactly been a shining star, and we already know that no lead is safe in Coors Field.

Prediction:
The Braves have the advantage in both offense and pitching heading into this series. 3-1 or 4-0, Braves.


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Mets at Braves – Series Preview

Written by Jonathan on April 4, 2008 – 12:15 pm

The New York Mets (2-1) come to town this evening to face off against the Braves (1-3) who are looking to pick up the pace after a slow start on the season.  This early matchup highlights one of the key rivalries in the NL East for the season, in what is expected to be a 3-way race between the Mets, Phillies and Braves.  I’m looking to see some solid starting pitching matchups on both sides.

Projected Starters:
Friday: John Maine (0-0, -.–, RHP) vs. Tim Hudson (0-0, 2.57, RHP)
Tim Hudson looks to get a little more run support from the squad than he did during his first start on opening day against the Nationals, where he only issued 3 hits through 7 innings of work.  John Maine makes his first start of the season for the Mets.  Both pitchers should be highly effective and I look to see a battle of two potent offenses against solid pitching.

Saturday: Mike Pelfrey (0-0, -.–, RHP) vs. Tom Glavine (0-0, 1.80, LHP)
Tom Glavine faces the Mets for the first time since coming back to pitch in a Braves uniform.  Hopefully Tommy will make it a little deeper into the game than on Monday against the Pirates, where he gave up 7 hits in 5 innings.  Glavine got shelled the first time he played against the Braves when he went to the Mets; let’s hope the favor isn’t returned.  Of the starters we’ll see from the Mets this weekend, I think Pelfrey has the potential to be the weakest link.

Sunday: Johan Santana (1-0, 2.57, LHP) vs. John Smoltz (0-0, -.–, RHP)
This is the pitching matchup that Braves and Mets fans alike are looking forward to.  John Smoltz looks to make his first start of the regular season coming off of the 15-day disabled list.  The Mets’ golden boy, Santana, looks to extend his record to 2-0.  This should be a great matchup to watch as long as Smoltz is back to feeling up to pitching at full strength.

Offensive Matchup:
The Braves and Mets have two potent offenses (1st and 2nd in the NL in runs scored, respectively).  It’s hard to really tell how those numbers pan out at the start of the season, but it still shows that the teams are capable of putting runs on the board.  I don’t expect to see as large of offensive numbers from these games on account of solid pitching, but one swing of the bat on either side could influence the tone of the entire series.

Prediction:
I doubt we’ll see a sweep by either team in this series and I’m going to give a 2-1 advantage to the Braves on a couple of conditions.  First of all, it’s a home series and the fans are buzzing for this one.  Secondly, that prediction only holds true if Smoltz is at full strength to go up against Santana.  I can’t possibly predict which games go which way, but I expect to see some hard fought games on both sides of the ball.


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