Series Preview: Atlanta Braves vs Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Well I give up.

The Braves have inevitably swept the Oakland A’s, arguably one the best team in baseball this season after getting swept by arguably the worst in the San Diego Padres earlier this month.  Because baseball.

The Braves bats came alive against two really good starters in Sonny Gray and Jon Lester, and now the Braves will have to see if this sorcery can continue against a solid rotation in the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have now lost 5 straight games to pull dead even with the Braves with a 64-60 record.

While they may not be as shutdown as last season, the Pirates rotation is seemingly filled with number 3 starter material or better.  Former Brave Charlie Morton was recently disabled with right hip inflammation, leaving the Braves to take on young stud Gerrit Cole in his place.  This will be Cole’s first major league start since July 4th, although he did start 4 games with AAA Indianapolis in the interim.  Cole of course was the number 1 pick in the first round of the 2011 draft, and had a very good half season with the Pirates in 2013.  Former Phillie Vance Worley looks to have returned to form, after a mediocre season in 2012 saw him traded to the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he imploded in just 10 starts.  Worley still isn’t back to where you’d they’d like him to be in the strikeout department, but his hits per nine have tanked by about 3, and the big righty isn’t walking many so far in his 68 innings.  Lastly the Braves will see Francisco Liriano, who has been a lot more hittable than his Cy Young worthy year last year, if only because of his uptick in walks.  The hard throwing lefty still strikeouts out plenty, and will be the biggest challenge the Braves have over this set.  The Pirates bullpen has been a bit of an up and down performance, with lefty Tony Watson and closer Mark Melancon being the standouts.  They’re definitely hittable, and I think the Braves bullpen has the edge in this department.

On the offensive, Andrew McCutchen is still on the disabled list with a broken rib after being hit with a pitch by Arizona and former Atlanta pitcher Randall Delgado.  Seemingly hit in retaliation for what looked like an accidental plunking of Paul Golschmidt the night before, the very stupid actions of Kirk Gibson and Delgado are benefiting the Braves here, as the 2013 NL MVP was once again raking before the incident.  With McCutchen on the DL, the Pirates have had to rely on an outfield primarily comprised of Sterling Marte, Travis Snider, and prospect Gregory Polanco.  Polanco hasn’t quite lived up to expectations after a hot first week, but the talent is definitely there, and Braves fans shouldn’t be fooled by that .250 batting average.  Polanco is just getting started.

Elsewhere, Ike Davis‘s power still hasn’t shown up in 2014, and Pedro Alvarez‘s power isn’t slugging near his normal rate.  Russell Martin has also sacrificed his power, but at that expense has returned to his early career contact and on base numbers.

If this past weekend is any indication, the Braves could be on the right track to regaining it’s power stroke and clutch ability.  And for all intents and purposes, the Pirates offense is at a point in the season that could make or break the club’s chances, and the Braves’ strong starting staff this series is very poised to break them.

 

 

Game 1:

7:05 PM EST, Monday, August 18th

 

Probables:  Ervin Santana (12-6, 3.66 ERA) vs Vance Worley (5-2, 2.51)

 

Game 2:

7:05 PM EST, Tuesday, August 19th

 

Probables:  Aaron Harang (9-7, 3.51 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (3-9, 3.78 ERA)

 

Game 3:

7:05 PM EST, Wednesday, August 20th

 

Probables:  Alex Wood (9-9, 3.07 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (7-4, 3.78 ERA)

 

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Tags: Atlanta Braves

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