Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Dodgers @ Braves

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After taking three of four against the Padres, the Braves host the Los Angeles Dodgers for the weekend.  The Dodgers are a half game in front of the Giants in the NL West lead, despite winning four less games than the Braves.  The Dodgers might be down a man after Matt Kemp‘s tirade yesterday, though a suspension has not been handed out yet.

Game 1 – Friday 7:35 ET – Chris Capuano vs. Tommy Hanson

After a DL stint, Hanson returns to the rotation, looking to improve his peripherals in his 100th career start.  Capuano has a great 3.11 ERA despite posting the same BB, K, and GB rates as last year.  He’s been very tough against lefties this year, getting a lot more groundballs with his sinker at 87-90.  His changeup is his best pitch, showing a lot of fade at 77-80.  He also has a mediocore slider/cutter at 82-84, and a slider/curve at 75-77.  His big home/road splits could also come into play, having posted an ERA two runs higher on the road.

Game 2 – Saturday 7:10 ET – Aaron Harang vs. Ben Sheets

Sheets pitched well last time out, allowing some bloop hits on the road to five runs in six innings.  Harang has been shaky this year, managing to show some good luck on BABIP and HR/FB%, which leaves his ERA at 3.76.  His walk rate is at the highest level since his rookie season.  His velocity is down to 88-91, with both a two-seam and four-seam variety.  His slider is his main off-speed pitch, 81-83 with average movement.  He also mixes in a slow curve and changeup.

Game 3 – Sunday 1:35 ET – Chad Billingsley vs. Mike Minor

Minor has recovered from his horrible start, lowering his ERA each of the last seven starts.  Billingsley has had a quiet season, posting a 3.62 ERA and great 3.23 FIP.  He is showing the best control of his career, his sub 7% BB rate almost 2% lower than his previous low.  He also has limited homers throughout his career, never posting a HR/FB% above 10%.  He throws six different pitches: 90-93 four-seamer, 90-92 two-seamer, 86-88 slider, 84-87 change, 76-78 curve, and a lollipop curve down to 60 MPH.

Offensively, Kemp has been the best player, despite missing almost half the season with hamstring issues.  Andre Ethier has been a consistent force, while Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino have been re-energized since leaving Miami and Philadelphia.  The surprise story has been catcher A.J. Ellis, relying on a .385 OBP.  Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston have been reliable veteran presences and average hitters.  They have their share of disappointments also.  Dee Gordon has a sub-.300 OBP and SLG to go along with poor defense.  Juan Rivera has also been near a win below replacement level, while James Loney and Juan Uribe are at replacement level.

This will be the toughest series for the Braves since playing the Nationals July 20-22.  The Braves are 17-6 since then, giving them some room in the wildcard race.  Games 1 and 3 will likely be the tougher games, especially Capuano tonight.

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Tags: Braves FanSided Los Angeles Dodgers

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