As the Braves head home to take on the San Francisco Giants, there is some wonder if the Braves’ dominant starting pitching run is coming to a close. Fresh off of getting swept by a team who resides in the basement of the division, Braves starters gave up 19 runs in the 3 game series. Alex Wood truly struggled for the first time since early last season, and Aaron Harang‘s long due regression came in not in drops, but in a fully flowing river.
Luckily for the Braves, reinforcements are arriving.
7:35 PM EST, Friday, May 2nd
7:10 PM EST, Saturday, May 3rd
1:35 EST, Sunday, May 4th
Probables: Madison Bumgarner (2-3, 3.74 ERA) vs Alex Wood (2-4, 2.93 ERA)
As you can tell, and probably have heard, tonight marks the season debut of Mike Minor. The Braves optioned Gus Schlosser to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room on the roster for Minor, leaving David Hale as the Braves’ swingman.
Gavin Floyd is also scheduled to return to the majors on Sunday. I really have no clue as to what the Braves will do in this situation, but the surplus of arms could help to counter the sudden regression of the Braves staff. Ian Thomas is the likely roster casualty for Floyd.
What lies for Minor and the rest of the rotation is a lineup not very unlike the Braves here in 2014. At a glance, not many of the slash lines in the Giants lineup really jump off of the page; Mike More is slashing a very good .302/.351/.581, and Angel Pagan has been solid in the on base department so far, but for the most part, the Giants offense has been very catch and release so far this year. Big games from major lineup players like Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence have helped offset otherwise mediocre starts, and a Dan Ugglian like performance from Pablo Sandoval so far this season. Most surprising of all has been a solid start for ex-Brave prospect Brandon Hicks, who the Giants picked up on a minors deal to log the innings until Marco Scutaro returns.
Lineup cornerstone, Leesburg, GA native, and Braves killer Buster Posey was off to a slow start, and was hitting .219 just one week ago. But since last Friday, Posey has crushed a couple of homers to go alongside a slash line of .381/.458/.714. This is not especially good for the Braves: Posey has hit the Braves to a tune of .338/.407/.563 in 20 career games, tallying 12 extra base hits in those games.
Where the Braves might be able to take advantage of this Giants club is the starting pitching. Once the anchor of the franchise, the starting pitching for San Francisco has been less that solid in 2014. Former beloved Brave Tim Hudson is currently the ace of this staff, but thankfully for us, misses his turn in the rotation this weekend. Behind him are 4 above average to ace like starters who just can’t seem to put it together. The struggles of Tim Lincecum has been well documented, and as he takes the mound tonight, you have to wonder what version of this 2 time Cy Young winner will show up. Ryan Vogelsong appeared out of the blue for San Fran in 2011, making the All-Star game and earning Cy Young votes. His success carried over into 2012, but he struggled mightily in 2013, and hasn’t gotten any better in the early going. Madison Bumgarner has been much better than Lincecum and Vogelsong, who both sport ERA’s north of 5.00, but the young lefty (still only 24 with 3 200+ innings seasons under his belt!) hasn’t seen too much luck, with a 3.90 BABIP dragging down his otherwise solid, if slightly lower than average peripherals. The bullpen is a whole other story. While a little more homer prone than you’d expect, Sergio Romo and company have allowed just 20 runs in 93.2 innings of work.
The Braves will have their work cut out for them, but scoring early will be key in this battle of two very similar pitching oriented teams.