The Braves are coming off a mediocre 4-3 homestand to kick off a 6-game road-trip with the opening game in a series against the Mets tonight. The Braves need to get their bats going, having gone 1 for their last 31 with runners in scoring position and scoring 2 runs in their last 3 games. The Mets got their 8th win in their last 11 games beating the Cardinals on Wednesday. Even though they are 7 games under .500, their lineup is quite formidable. Of course, David Wright is the big name here, leading the team with 141 wRC+. Ruben Tejada (.294/.340/.364) and Daniel Murphy (.289/.330/.401) are hitting and getting on base at decent clips, even if their slugging numbers leave something to be desired. On the flipside, Scott Hairston (.510 Slg%) and Ike Davis (26 HRs) bring quite a big of power to the plate. And Mike Baxter has been quite good of late starting in right field, posting a .285/.390/.444 line to round out the heart of their lineup.
Game 1 – Paul Maholm vs. Jonathan Niese
Maholm is looking to right the ship after his 2 Inning, 7 run debacle his last time out against the Phillies. The Mets are a great team for that – his last outing against them was brilliant, needing just 95 pitches to throw a complete game shutout. Maholm has been very solid since the All-Star break, posting a 2.77 ERA and pitching at least 6 innings in all but his most recent start. He will be facing Jonathon Niese, who has been hot in August, posting a 2.61 ERA in his 6 August starts. His repertoire consists mostly of hard stuff, with a fastball (about 91-92 mph), sinker and cutter that he throws a combined 76% of the time. His out pitch is his curveball, which he tosses about 28% of the time whenever he is ahead in the count. He induces whiffs around 11% of the time with it.
Game 2 – Kris Medlen vs. Jeremy Hefner
Kris Medlen has been a boss. Everyone knows that. His changeup is outstanding. Jeremy Hefner is coming off a couple of good starts, giving up 3 runs in his past 14 innings. Look for a quite varied pitch selection – he has a 4-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup – and he throws all of them at non-negligible clips. He looks to his fastball in almost any count against righties, and throws a lot more sinkers, curveballs, and changeups against lefties. In either case, his out pitch is his 4-seam fastball, which he relies on in 2-strike counts more than 40% of the time.
Tommy Hanson has been bad lately. He has had some serious control issues with his fastball and once-awesome curveball. Since the all-star break, he’s had a 6.20 ERA and is letting nearly 2 runners on an inning. Should this start go poorly, I imagine that he will get plucked from the starting rotation. Chris Young has been mediocre at best, with a 4.32 ERA in his last 6 starts. His repertoire is quite narrow – he throws 4-seam fastballs and sliders 97% of the time. That’s kinda stuff you see from a reliever, not from a starter.
The Braves must take at least 2 of 3 from the Mets, if not all 3, to help solidify their lead in the wild card race. One important thing to watch is Michael Bourn‘s performance. He absolutely needs to turn it around if the Braves will have any shot in the playoffs. His 2nd half stats (.233/.333/.327) will not cut it. He still has some time to turn around the long slump, but it needs to be soon. Lets hope he starts it this series. The other thing to watch for is NY’s Chipper Jones‘s reception. It’s his last hurrah against in NY against the Mets, but nothing has been announced about how they are planning to honor him.