Friday, May 17, 2013

Game 41 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers (17-22) at Atlanta Braves (22-18)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) 4-2, 3.40 ERA
LHP Paul Maholm (ATL) 4-4, 3.94 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:35 pm ET, FS South/MLB Network):

Dodgers (career vs. Maholm):
Carl Crawford - LF (N/A)
Nick Punto - 2B (0-7, 2 BB)
Matt Kemp - CF (4-15, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K)
Adrian Gonzalez - 1B (3-11, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 3 K)
AJ Ellis - C (0-2)
Scott Van Slyke - RF (N/A)
Luis Cruz - 3B (N/A)
Dee Gordon - SS (1-3)
Hyun-Jin Ryu - P (N/A)

Braves (Ryu's 1st career start against ATL):
Andrelton Simmons - SS
Jason Heyward - RF
Justin Upton - LF
Freddie Freeman - 1B
Chris Johnson - 3B
Brian McCann - C
Dan Uggla - 2B
BJ Upton - CF
Paul Maholm - P

Home sweet home don't you say? Following a lengthy road trip, the NL East leading Braves will return home Friday as they open up a three-game series with the last-place Dodgers. Atlanta struggled on the back end of their recent ten-game road trip, dropping five out of their last six games and their lead in the division has been cut to just a half-game. Dodgers have been playing better baseball in wake of their eight-game losing streak and suddenly, both clubs are trending in opposite directions. 
Braves started off strong on the road trip, winning three of the first four games, including taking two of three from the Reds before sputtering out of control. Tonight, they will turn to starter Paul Maholm, who is on the same downward trend as the rest of his team during the road trip. 
Maholm (4-4, 3.94 ERA) earned his fourth win of the season with an impressive performance against the Reds on May 6th, going 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits, walked two and struck out six in the 7-4 win. But Maholm was battered around in his last start against the Giants. The lefty was tagged for six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings while throwing a season-low 86 pitches before exiting in an eventual 10-1 loss. 
Dodgers will counter with Korean phenom, Hyun-Jin Ryu who stopped the Dodgers eight-game losing streak, going 6 2/3 innings and conceding just one run against the marlins in his last start. Ryu signed a 6-year $36 million contract this past December and has pitched at least six innings in each of his first eight Major League starts. He enters tonight's game with a 4-2 record and an ERA of 3.40. 

Jason Heyward activated from DL:
Braves RF Jason Heyward has been activated from the 15-day DL and will hit 2nd in tonight's lineup. In order to create a roster spot for Heyward, Jordan Walden was sent to the disabled list with  right shoulder inflammation. Heyward has been sidelined since April 22nd after undergoing an appendectomy procedure in Denver. Braves are 13-4 when Heyward is in the lineup, 9-14 without him.

Feels good to be home:
After playing 26 of their first 40 games on the road, Braves schedule will begin to even out as they begin a six-game home stand with the Dodgers and Twins. After all the struggles the Braves have gone through while on the road, they have managed to go 13-13 in those 26 games. The home cooking should snap the Braves out of their recent funk.

Matt Kemp catching fire:
Dodgers CF Matt Kemp extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a first inning double off of Ross Detwiler. He finished the night with 2 hits in 4 at-bats. During his 14-game hit streak, Kemp is 19-for-58 (.328), though 16 of the hits have been singles. For the season, Kemp is hitting .282 with just 1 HR and 15 RBIs. 

Side note:
Tonight will be Hyun-Jin Ryu's first career start against the Braves.
Paul Maholm is 1-5 in nine career starts against the Dodgers with an ERA of 4.91.

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