6/18-6/20 Series Preview: Atlanta Braves


Mean. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The Yankees and Braves have a one-sided history, and that continued last week when the Bombers marched into Turner Field and left three days later having swept the series. Now the scene shifts to the Bronx and the Yankees get the DH back. After six games in NL parks, it’ll be nice not having to watch pitchers hit make outs.

What Have They Done Lately?

After getting swept by the Yankees last week, the Braves lost two of three to the Orioles at home. They went 3-6 on a nine-game homestand against AL East teams, which is pretty rough. Atlanta owns a 35-30 record and a +20 run differential, both the fifth best marks in the NL.


(Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The Yankees held the Braves to just seven runs in three games last week, but don’t be fooled, Atlanta can hit. Their 298 runs are the third most in the NL and their 4.52 runs per game average is a top-ten mark in baseball. Atlanta’s offensive charge continues to be fueled by dynamite center fielder Michael Bourn (124 wRC+) and left fielder Martin Prado (131 wRC+), their combination atop the batting order. You’re not going to find a better twosome.

Catcher Brian McCann (101 wRC+) hit everything hard against the Yankees last week, but they got a little lucky and more than a few of those balls landed in gloves. I’d rather not see them risk it again. Second baseman Dan Uggla (128 wRC+) will show off his guns in the cleanup spot and third baseman Chipper Jones (120 wRC+) has been backing him up as the number five hitter. This will be his final series at Yankee Stadium barring an entirely possible World Series matchup. First baseman Freddie Freeman (95 wRC+) and right fielder Jason Heyward (115 wRC+) add some length to the lineup while shortstop Andrelton Simmons (153 wRC+ in limited action) adds speed at the bottom of the order.

As I mentioned last week, Atlanta has a really strong bench. Outfielder Matt Diaz mashes lefties (149 wRC+ vs. LHP), third baseman Juan Francisco has big power against righties (.237 ISO vs. RHP), and although corner guy Eric Hinske is having a poor season (46 wRC+), I still consider him a threat. David Ross (106 wRC+) is the best backup catcher in baseball and infielder Jack Wilson (3 wRC+) might be the worst player in the league. It’s definitely an impressive group of reserves, which is especially important in the NL.

I’m not entirely sure what the Braves will do with the DH spot this series. They platooned Diaz and Hinske there a few weeks ago, but that was when Chipper was on the DL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones at DH, Prado (or Francisco) at third, and then Diaz or Hinske in left. They could always let McCann have a DH day and start Ross as well. Lots of options thanks to that strong bench.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Mike Minor
Six days ago, the Yankees couldn’t touch Minor even though he came into the game as one of the worst two starting pitchers in the game. He still sports a 6.01 ERA and a 5.20 FIP despite those 7.1 innings of one-run ball, with mediocre strikeout (7.55 K/9 and 19.4 K%), walk (3.45 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%), and ground ball (34.0%) rates to boot. His 14 homers allowed are among the most in the NL. Minor is a four-pitch guy — low-90s fastball, mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curve — and last week he killed the Yankees’ right-handed bats with soft stuff away. That same plan better not work a second time, the Bombers should make the necessary adjustments.

(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Tim  Hudson
Hudson came back from an ankle problem to strike out a season-high eight against the Yankees last week while doing the bare minimum to qualify for a quality start: three earned runs in six innings. That game pushed his season ERA up to 3.90 (3.09 FIP) and his strikeout rate up to 5.85 K/9 (15.8 K%). Hudson has always been about ground balls (57.1%) and limiting the walks (2.25 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), as you know. He’s very fastball heavy, particularly with his upper-80s sinker. He’ll also mix in some mid-80s cutters and on rare occasions, a mid-70s curveball. Hudson will live and die by his sinker.

Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Tommy Hanson
The Yankees didn’t see Hanson last week and it’s fitting that he’s starting against Hughes considering they’ve both battled missing velocity in recent years. The 25-year-old right-hander has pitched to a 3.32 ERA this season despite the worst peripherals of his career: 7.64 K/9 (19.9 K%), 3.65 BB/9 (9.5 BB%), 1.11 HR/9, and 41.6% grounders. His four-seam fastball sits right at 90 and he backs it up with a low-80s slider and a low-70s curveball. His low-80s changeup has been all but shelved this year (1.0% of all pitches thrown). It’s worth noting that left-handed batters have absolutely annihilated Hanson this year (.385 wOBA) — likely due to the shelving of the changeup — while righties have struggled (.254 wOBA). Wouldn’t be a bad game to rest Derek Jeter and/or Alex Rodriguez.

“He must work out.” (AP)

Bullpen Status
Rookie right-hander Randall Delgado gave the Braves eight innings on Sunday, so their bullpen is pretty fresh. Closer Craig Kimbrel (0.97 FIP) has had two straight days off while setup man Jonny Venters (4.40 FIP) has had one day off as well as three of the last four. Lefty specialist Eric O’Flaherty (2.75 FIP vs. LHB) threw two pitches on Sunday and hadn’t worked in about a week prior to that. Manager Fredi Gonzalez’s top end-game arms are nice and rested for tonight and probably tomorrow as well.

Atlanta recently recalled righty Kris Medlen (3.15 FIP) after sending him down in an effort to stretch him out and get him into the rotation, but that plan has been scrapped for the time being and he is back in the bullpen. Right-handers Chad Durbin (5.07 FIP) and Cristhian Martinez (3.20 FIP) handle the middle innings while personal fave Anthony Varvaro (3.91 FIP in very limited action) replaced the recently released Livan Hernandez. Generic right-hander Todd Redmond is up as an extra arm until the Braves call up Jair Jurrjens to start this Friday. Too bad they couldn’t start one of these next three days, eh? Redmond has yet to appear in a big league game and I mean ever; his next appearance will be his MLB debut.

The Yankees used their bullpen quite heavily over the weekend, but Ivan Nova‘s 7.2-inning performance yesterday helped a bit. Rafael Soriano and Boone Logan are the only two guys out there to have appeared in each of the last two games. Everyone else had Sunday off, though David Robertson did warm up. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage. For the latest and greatest on the Atlanta nine, check out Capitol Avenue Club.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Prediction: We’re gonna beat their asses.

    • Thomas

      Fredi Gonzalez certainly beat Johnny Venters’ ass.

    • Jim Patterson

      I was wondering too about why the Yanks and Braves play twice. Yanks are already playing the Mets twice, why the Braves too? Does anyone else in the majors play more than one team twice?

  • Jamey

    My reaction to seeing Atlanta on the schedule for next 3, “Again? Blah.”

    Yearly Interleague Baseball: It’s FANtastic.

    • Klemy

      My thoughts as well.

  • yooboo

    Forgive me for not paying any attention but why do Yanks play non Mets NL team twice?

    Anyway, Without Swisher, Yanks still have a NL lineup with Nix replacing a pitcher. Is it cruel?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He’s no worldbeater, but Nix is better than that.

    • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

      Isn’t it going to get worse in 2013, too?

  • yooboo

    Dunno if it is permissible to borrow stats from Yankees.lhblogs.com but statistic is everywhere.

    CC Sabathia: 4 G, 3-1, 3.54 ERA, 27 K, 7 BB
    Hiroki Kuroda: 4 G, 3-1, 1.29 ERA, 22 K, 5 BB
    Phil Hughes: 5 G, 4-0, 3.58 ERA, 33 K, 9 BB
    Andy Pettitte: 5 G, 2-1, 2.88 ERA, 35 K, 8 BB
    Ivan Nova: 5 G, 5-0, 2.48 ERA, 21 K, 7 BB

    Sabby was not our Ace in this 9 wins. I like that. Most impressive is the rotation’s k:BB ratio. Almost 4:1. It has to be something with NL hitters.

    • yooboo

      For clarity, I talked about what kind of pitchers when they were in last 9 games.

    • MannyGeee

      OK, I got to know, why are you going with ‘Sabby’ instead of the better known and easier to type ‘CC’? Not trying to start some drama or be a dick, just morbid curiosity…

  • Greg

    We should beat Minor because now we’ve seen him once very recently and should remember him.

    The Hudson game could be a tossup.

    Tommy Hanson has basically been their ace so it will be interesting to see him.

    My prediction: 2-3

    • yooboo

      Chavez and Ibanez will be in the same lineup against both Hs so I hope Yanks continue working both up on counts to knock them out before 7th innings.

    • Ted Nelson

      Hanson has a 4.3 FIP and xFIP… Beachy has been their ace, with Hudson right there too.

    • Jesse

      The Yankees should be able to knock Tommy Hanson around considering his underwhelming peripherals.

      I’m expecting a sweep.

  • Greg

    We should beat Minor because now we’ve seen him once very recently and should remember him.

    The Hudson game could be a tossup.

    Tommy Hanson has basically been their ace so it will be interesting to see him.

    My prediction: 2-3

    • Greg

      Sorry repeat post

  • nsalem

    The Braves will always have 1957, a ring, Nippy Jones and the infamous ‘Shoeshine Incident”

    Jones is remembered for being involved in a controversial “Shoeshine incident” in the 1957 Series, that would be repeated twelve years later by Cleon Jones in the 1969 World Series.[3] Jones pinch hit in games one and three of the 1957 World Series, grounding out both times. Both of which games were also won by the Yankees. Game four went into extra innings, and when the Yankees took a 5–4 lead in the tenth, the Braves were looking at the possibility of falling three games to one in the series.[4]
    Jones led off the Milwaukee half of the tenth inning, pinch hitting for Warren Spahn. He jumped back from a low pitch that home plate umpire Augie Donatelli called a ball. Jones protested that it had hit his foot, and he was awarded first base after showing Donatelli a shoe polish mark on the ball to prove it. Yankees manager Casey Stengel vehemently protested the call, but to no avail.[3] The Braves scored three runs in the tenth, including a two-run home run by Eddie Mathews to end the game and even the series at two games apiece.[5] The play was the turning point in the series, as the Braves went on to win the series in seven games

    • MannyGeee

      too soon….

      • nsalem

        I know what you mean. Game 7 of 2001 will still have a sting to it in 2056. I have gotten over our 7th game loss in the 1926 when Ruth tried to steal second with two outs in the ninth in a 2-1 game and he was out by 10 feet.

        • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

          Never get over WS losses. I did recently however get over a tough 1968 loss to the Tigers when Dick McCauliffe hit a homer to beat Dooley Womack at YS.

          • jsbrendog

            tony womack is nodding his head

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Dooley would have played a better second base for us. He was also probably either dead or 70.

          • JohnC

            I just recently got over a 1976 Bat Day loss to the Angels when Yanks were trailing 8-0 going to the 9th inning and rallied for 8 runs in the 9th to tie the game only to lose in extras 11-8

            • nsalem

              Was that the game that Frank Tanana was dominating the Yankees into the ninth?

            • nsalem

              Frank Tanana was pitching a 2 hitter going into the ninth. Were you still there in the ninth inning? Do you remember this game from the month before
              Chambliss hit a 3 run walk-off versus the RedSox. It was a taste of things to come.
              What a great year (except for the World Series of course).

              • JohnC

                Sure do remember. it was on the first pitch from Tom House who had just come in to pitch to Chambliss. As for that Tanana game, yes, I did stay and see the rally, after pleading with my dad to stay, as he figured the game was over and wanted to beat the traffic home. Shuld have seen the stunned look on his face when Yanks came back to tie it. Remember jumping up and down crazily after Roy White hit a 2 run shot to tie it and cap off the 8 run rally.

                • nsalem

                  Then Pinella got on and Rivers ran for him. He was the winning run but was picked-off second. 11 inning 11-8 game. Time of game 3 hours and 4 minutes.

          • nsalem

            Montero Hate to nitpick but the game you were referring to was actually played on June 4, 1967


            • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

              I should have known the nitpickers would get me. Cruel world! But I am over the loss now so no hard feelings :-)

              Also that Montero bomb off Lincecum on Saturday made me very happy.

              • nsalem

                Jesus had a pretty good week. Have a feeling he will have a better second half.

                • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

                  Johnny Bench was hitting .167 in June of his rookie year. Jesus is doing better.

                  • nsalem

                    Mike Schmidt hit .196 over his entire rookie year.

  • Ted Nelson

    Wonder what the Braves were asking for in return for Prado this offseason if it was true that they were shopping him…

  • pat

    IIRC McCann hit a bunch of balls deep to RF that def would have been home runs in our park. Gotta keep him in check or at least keep the guys off base in front of him.

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    Yankees bats better come prepared to mash this series. Can just about guarantee that the Braves sticks won’t remain dormant. Consistent offensive attack plan must begin now.

    As for the pitching, couldn’t ask for much more lately. Except this: CC needs to have a “CC start.” The other two might be due for regression, but big boy needs to bring his good shit tonight. No more assbagging around & letting #2, #4a, #4b, & #5 carry the rotation.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    A little hot streak by Jeter and he will soon pass Ripken on the hit list.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Possibly within the next week. Would be nice (and quite conceivable if he continues to perform near career averages) to see him end up top 5 all time by the end of this contract.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Just got to NY. Great day, maybe CC will enjoy the cooler temps.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Washington radio announcers are insufferable.

    ‘If Derek Jeter takes a pitch folks, it cannot be a strike”

    • Klemy

      I’ll take that over The Hawke any day though.

    • goterpsgo

      Santangelo is an idiot. He’s helped me to appreciate Jim Hunter.

    • BK2ATL

      This I completely agree with, with regards to the Washington TV broadcast. It was completely insufferable listening to the Washington TV announcers on Sat. broadcast.

  • Hall and Nokes

    Another weird fact about the Braves: they are 0-9 on Mondays with a total of 14 runs scored.

  • Jonathan

    Jeter and granderson are a pretty lethal 1-2. At least they were when we carried players capable of giving them rest.