Man it would have been a lot better to talk about two straight sweeps…
But I digress, especially since the Braves are actually hitting the ball!
The Braves will gladly stroll into Cincinnati with their heads held high – they were one misplay away from sweeping two good teams in a row in hilaroius fashion, with all their offensive woes, having outscored the A’s and Pirates 25 to 17. Of course we were capitalizing on two teams who have had problems as of late. The Pirates especially, having lost 5 in a row coming into this past series with Atlanta. And the Braves will have the chance to do it yet again.
The Reds have now dropped 5 straight games, albeit the Cardinals aren’t the easiest opponent, but the struggle for the Reds is very real, especially on the offensive side. With the loss of Joey Votto, All-Stars Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco are the lineup standout, and it pretty much stops there. Both are the only full time players registering an OPS over .750. In fact, the only other players to register over that are the injured Votto and utility infielder Kristopher Negron, who has just 82 plate appearances to his name.
The aging Brandon Phillips returned to the Reds lineup on Monday night, but has just 2 hits in 13 plate appearances since his return. His offensive presence is diminishing by the day. Speedy centerfielder Billy Hamilton has 46 steals, but as has been said before, you can’t steal first base. A dead even .300 OBP isn’t the worst, but isn’t extremely helpful in a lineup that isn’t performing. Slugging right fielder Jay Bruce is experiencing the first true down year of his career, as his trademark left handed pop has suffered a loss of 90 points or so of slugging percentage.
The biggest cogs in the Reds lineup aren’t performing, and it’s probably even more frustrating for their solid starting rotation that has been performing pretty well until late. The Braves do have the pleasure of missing Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ best starter and strikeout machine. Mat Latos has arguably the best stuff of the four starters that the Braves will face this weekend, and has performed really well since starting the season in June due to torn cartilage in his knee. Mike Leake has stepped up his strikeout game this season, but at the cost of giving up the most hits in the league at 178 in 172.2 innings. Leake sports a 2.95 ERA in 5 career starts against the Braves, but his uptick in K’s leaves a little uncertainty to how the hot Braves bats will handle Leake this time out. The Braves tagged him for 4 runs in 7 innings in late April.
After two strong seasons as a swingman for the Reds, Alfredo Simon has rewarded the Reds with 25 good starts so far in 2014. Of course, Simon isn’t all of a sudden a number two Major League starter, as his strikeout rate is resting in the 5’s per 9 and FIP at a 4.54. Contact pitching and a solid defense can do wonders for a guy who has been predominantly a reliever in his career. Simon is hittable, and the type of pitcher that the Braves could either feast on, or watch as he tosses 7 innings of 3 hit ball. The Reds bullpen is nothing like it’s starting rotation, as anyone not named Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton has been pretty bad. 10 other relievers have made an appearance for the Reds this year, but none to any consistent success. The Braves will match up nicely with this club.
I’d say the Braves are in pretty good shape to continue this wave of recent offensive potency, as every pitching matchup except Mike Minor vs Mat Latos seems to be obviously in the Braves favor. Hopefully the bats continue to roll and the Braves find continued life behind the short fences of the Great American Ballpark.
7:10 PM EST, Thursday, August 21st
7:10 PM EST, Friday, August 22nd
7:10 PM EST, Saturday, August 23rd
1:10 PM EST, Sunday, August 24th
Tags: Atlanta Braves