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.

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.

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.

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.

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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