As the Atlanta Braves (64-45) get back on the road after a much needed seven game home-stand, winning all seven games and sweeping both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies (a feat not done by Atlanta since 2000), they will travel to Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia to face the division rival Phillies (50-58). The Atlanta Braves now lead the NL East division by 11.5 games, and are ahead of the struggling Phillies by 13.5.
Fans hope that the Braves will have the same fire on the road they displayed at home, where in those seven games the Braves scored a total of 51 runs! I could probably go on and on waxing happy about not only the runs, but the prolific batting, increases in average, streaks, clutch hitting and pitching, etc. I will try to show some restraint, but it won’t be easy. Perhaps I’ll be satisfied simply to point out that since their last loss, the Braves have hit .336 as a team with 7.3 runs per game.
Kris Medlen will take the mound in game 1 of the series against the Phillies, and I will be very interested to see how Meds performs. There has been a strange pitching brew smoldering in the Atlanta cauldron for a while now. With the loss of Tim Hudson, the struggles of regulars Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen, questions about Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy‘s readiness to start, and no move made by Atlanta at the trade deadline to get another starter, it should be very important to Medlen (as well as all the others) to perform above and beyond what he has so far.
Unless you watch Medlen, his struggles may not be evident. After all, Medlen is 7-10 with a 3.74 ERA. That doesn’t sound bad, except that when you watch Meds pitch, your eye test clearly shows a lack of command with his pitches, and a strong tendency to give up homers and hits in key situations. Medlen is not considered a pitcher that gets nervous and gives in to pressure, but frankly that is exactly what it appears like in many of his outings. Medlen has given up 12 homers this season already, with 13 the most he had ever given up in 2010. He has also already given up 139 hits, with 108 in 2010 his previous high.
To be fair to Medlen, I’m certain he hopes that he will not only regain his command from last year, but that he will get the kind of run support that Atlanta’s other pitchers did this week. Despite that 7.3 runs per game mentioned earlier, Meds has the team low on run support with just 3.5. Meds needs to help himself, but he should rightly expect his teammates to help him a bit more as well.
Facing Medlen in game one will be Ethan Martin who will be making his MLB debut tonight. A Georgia native from Athens, the 24 year old righty has performed pretty well in AAA Leigh Valley for the Phillies organization, going 11-5 with a 4.12 ERA. He will be making a spot start for the injured Cliff Lee, but has an opportunity to show the Phillies even more of what he’s made of. If the Braves can stay hot on the road, it will be interesting to see how the rookie handles Atlanta’s offensive storm.
Game 1: 7:05 PM EST Friday 8/2/13
Game 2: 4:05 PM EST Saturday 8/3/13
Atlanta: Brandon Beachy (0-0, 17.18 ERA)
Game 3: 8:00 PM EST Sunday 8/4/13
Items of Note
Even if the Braves’ bats stay hot in Philadelphia, will the pitching? Atlanta has had amazing outings from Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, and Alex Wood‘s last start was not bad at all. That said, how well will Brandon Beachy perform? Statistics show it often takes a while for a pitcher coming off TJ surgery to get back to form. I’ll have an article about that tomorrow, but bear in mind the typical stats, and don’t expect too much from Brandon. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.