The Atlanta Braves begin a four game series this evening, traveling to the City by the Bay and AT&T park to take on the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. The Braves were able to win their last series against the Cincinnati Reds with a 7-2 victory on Wednesday evening, and became the first club to visit the Great American ballpark and get a series win. Despite some hiccups from the bullpen, the Braves put together some timely hitting behind Dan Uggla, who had two solo homers, and a grand slam by Juan Francisco in the final game.
It was great for the Atlanta Braves to get the victory on Wednesday, particularly after the painful loss on Tuesday night. Leading through most of the game, Craig Kimbrel gave up a pair of two-out homers in the 9th inning to give the Reds a 5-4 victory. Rebounding on Wednesday evening should give the Braves a degree of momentum as they begin the new series in San Francisco, where they will face a struggling Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 7.20 ERA) in game one of the four game series. Vogelsong has typically pitched pretty well against Atlanta, with a 2.30 ERA in three games and 15.2 innings pitched. In those outings, Ryan gave up 10 hits, but only allowed 4 runs while striking out 14 and giving up only 3 walks. He has also given up four homers to the Braves in the past, with two of those homers to Freddie Freeman, one to Jordan Schafer, and one to Juan Francisco. Past performance aside though, Vogelsong has struggled with control and command this season, and his ERA has ballooned up dramatically. The Braves have been seeing and hitting the ball much better lately, and hope to take advantage of that.
Facing the Giants and taking the mound in game one will be Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08 ERA). Julio has had some rough outings, but recently showed his ability to keep a cool head and work his way out of bad situations. In his last two outings, although he gave up 18 hits, he allowed only 3 runs in just under 13 innings, and gave up no home runs. Not having pitched since April 29 due to a rainout, Julio could be a little rusty, but the young rookie has shown tremendous resilience in tough situations. I look for him to maintain the kind of control he has shown recently. He’ll need to facing the likes of Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro, both of whom have been white hot lately.
Game 2 of the series will have Tim Hudson (4-1, 3.83 ERA) taking the mound for the Braves against Matt Cain (1-2, 5.57 ERA). Tim has been very good in almost every outing this season, while Matt Cain, uncharacteristically, has struggled. Game 3 will feature Paul Maholm (4-3, 3.09 ERA) for the Braves against Madison Bumgarner (3-1, 2.31 ERA). Like Hudson, Maholm has been exceptionally good, but Madison has struggled during May. In the final game of the series, the Braves will bring Kris Medlen (1-4, 3.25 ERA) to the mound to face off against Tim Lincecum (2-2, 4.75 ERA). The final game could be an interesting game, because both Medlen and Lincecum have shown control issues this year, and it should be interesting to see if either of them can get back on track.
Of Note: The Atlanta Braves still lead the majors in home runs with 47. It’s been consistent hitting to contact that has been an issue for the Braves this year, but they are beginning to turn that around. Atlanta has hit .288 in the last five games, with eight homers adding to that average. What has been most impressive though has been the 32 runs scored over those games. Leading that offensive charge has been Andrelton Simmons, who has belted two homers, and went 11 for 22 with 4 doubles and 6 RBIs in the same five game stretch. Dan Uggla, who has struggled all year, has a 6 game hitting streak going, batting .375 over those 6 games. Freddie Freeman has also contributed, going 7 for 17 with 6 RBIs over the last 4 games. The bats are coming to life, but there have been some uncharacteristic hiccups from our bullpen. Let’s hope that over the series with the Giants, the bats will stay alive, and the relief will give the Braves some, well, relief!