After winning two and almost being given the third game, the Braves leave New York to head back home to face the San Diego Padres for the first time this year. The Braves enter the series 4.5 games behind the Nationals for the division, 2.5 games ahead of the Pirates for the top wild card spot, and 4.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers. The Padres are 51-65, well out of contention, but playing better as of late.
The lone pitcher to remain in the rotation the entire season, Minor has rewarded the Braves for their patience, posting a 2.13 ERA over his past six starts, finally lowering the ERA below 5.00. Stults has never had an extended stay in the majors, amassing exactly 200 IP in parts of six years. The lefty’s fastball sits around 88-90, but has good late life, making it a flyball/popup pitch. His main secondary pitches are a good circle-change and an average slider. He also mixes in a slow 12-6 curve, along with a sinker and cutter. He’s only struck out 11.7% of hitters this year, so the Braves can afford to be patient and get the pitch they want.
There should be plenty of action for the infielders this night. Hudson struggled in that category last time out against the Phillies, only getting four groundballs out of 15 batted balls. Richard has posted a 55% GB rate this year, good for a top 10 spot in the majors. The lefty (imagine that…) has a very similar approach to Maholm, pitch-to-contact emphasis with a good GB rate. Despite the high GB rate and pitching half his games in PETCO Park, Richard has allowed 20 HR, something the Braves may be able to use to their advantage.
Maholm looks to keep on ticking, coming off his 3-hit shutout Friday night against the Mets. Volquez has not been able to harness his command, walking nearly 14% of batters faced. However, he still strikes out 21% of hitters while inducing 50% groundballs, so he can still be effective. He mixes all four pitches, a four-seamer, two-seamer, change, and curve, fairly evenly. He throws more four-seams to righties and two-seams to lefties, the wrong way to take advantage of platoon splits, especially at 94-95. His curve is 78-81 with very good movement, while his change is 83-85 with splitter-type movement.
This just in: Chase Headley is really good. While his .275/.369/.458 slashline does not look great, the PETCO park factor turns that into a 136 wRC+, ahead of Adam Jones, Albert Pujols, and many others. Carlos Quentin had a late start to his season, but has posted an OPS near .900 so far. Rookie catcher Yasmani Grandal has been impressive his first month in the majors.
On the negative side, Cameron Maybin has taken a step back, posting a .213/.291/.323 line. Most of the regression has come from BABIP luck, dropping from .331 to .260. After getting 30 infield hits in 568 PA last year, he has 8 in 401 PA, going from one every 19 PA to one every 50 PA. Yonder Alonso has also been a disappointment, though he has rated just above average at the plate. The problem is that you need better than average production at first base, and the power is what’s really lacking in his game.
The Braves are playing another sub-.500 team, so another series win should be minimum expectations. The Padres are throwing two lefties, both of whom have big advantages against left-handed hitters. Huston Street has been nearly as effective as Kimbrel and Chapman in the 9th, and Luke Gregerson has thrown 16 straight scoreless innings, so the Braves need to get early leads to avoid the hot arms. The Padres offense has been average, so you can’t let the underwhelming raw stats fool you. The Padres pitching has been the weakness, and the Braves should be able to score enough runs to win at least two games.
Well, I missed the fact that this is a 4-game series. Thursday’s game is another 7:10 ET start, with Kris Medlen facing Jason Marquis. Marquis has rebounded since joining the Padres, posting a 3.66 ERA and 3.77 FIP. He still induces a 50%+ GB rate, but keeping the ball in the park is still a problem, allowing more than a homer per 9 IP pitching in PETCO. This has the chance to be a big offensive showing for the Braves.