Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Game 108 Preview: Colorado Rockies (51-57) at Atlanta Braves (62-45)

Pitching Probables:
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RHP Tyler Chatwood (COL) 7-3, 2.48 ERA
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 10-5, 2.89 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Rockies (career vs. Minor):
Dexter Fowler - CF (2-7, 3B, 2 BB, K)
Charlie Culberson - 2B (N/A)
Carlos Gonzalez - LF (3-8, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K)
Troy Tulowitzki - SS (0-5, BB)
Michael Cuddyer - RF (3-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, K)
Nolan Arenado - 3B (N/A)
Todd Helton - 1B (1-2, BB)
Yorvit Torrealba - C (N/A)
Tyler Chatwood - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. Chatwood):
Jason Heyward - CF (0-2)
Justin Upton - RF (2-6, BB, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (3-6, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB, K)
Evan Gattis - LF (1-3, 2B, K)
Brian McCann - C (0-3)
Chris Johnson - 3B (1-1, 2B)
Dan Uggla - 2B (2-6, 2B, K)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Mike Minor - P (N/A)

Braves' offense has scored 20 runs in winning the first two games of a four-game series against the Rockies at Turner Field, but tonight, offense may not be easy to come by for either team.
With the Braves looking to win its third straight over the Rockies, Mike Minor will toe the rubber tonight. The Braves' ace is enjoying the best season of his Major League career, carrying a 10-5 record along with a 2.89 ERA into play tonight.
Minor has pitched solidly in the month of July, allowing just six earned runs in his last four starts. During that span, Minor has also held opposing left-handers to a .204 batting average and sports a 1.91 ERA in 28 1/3 innings.
Rockies SP Tyler Chatwood is no slouch himself. The young righty carries a 7-3 record and a 2.48 ERA so far this season. Chatwood has been by far the Rockies most consistent pitcher and like Minor, he has allowed six runs in his last four starts, which is good for a 1.95 ERA in 27 2/3 innings pitched during that span. Chatwood struck out a career-high 11 while surrendering two earned runs and walking none in seven innings in his last start against the Brewers.

Todd Cunningham called up, singles in first MLB at-bat:
Before Tuesday's game, the Braves placed OF Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right Achilles and in a corresponding move promoted OF Todd Cunningham from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Cunningham, who hit .279 with a .709 OPS, and 18 stolen bases in 99 games this season for Gwinnett, singled in his first Major League at-bat, pinch hitting for starter Alex Wood in the seventh inning.

Updates on Upton, Schafer:
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that OFs BJ Upton and Jordan Schafer are nearing returns from their injuries. Upton, who has been sidelined since June 12 with a right adductor strain, is scheduled to begin a three-game rehab assignment with Gwinnett starting tonight and could be activated as early as Saturday.
Jordan Schafer, who has been out since July 3 with a stress fracture in his foot after fouling a ball off of it in Kansas City last month, could begin his rehab stint with Gwinnett on Saturday and could rejoin the Braves sometime next week.

Roy Oswalt nearing rehab assignment:
Rockies SP Roy Oswalt threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and will throw a simulated game on Friday in Pittsburgh before going out on a rehab assignment.
Oswalt, who has been on the DL since July 8 with a left hamstring strain, threw 36 pitches in his session and has said he will only make one rehab start before rejoining the big league club.
Oswalt did not participate in Spring Training because he did not receive any offseason offers. The former All-Star and Cy Young candidate has to prove himself once again that he is capable of being a mainstay in the Rockies rotation. In just four starts this season, Oswalt is 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA.

Side note:
Both Tyler Chatwood and Mike Minor have posted an ERA over five in their careers against the opposing team. Chatwood has a 5.63 ERA in three starts against the Braves while Minor has a 5.50 ERA in three starts as well.
With last night's win and Nationals' loss, the Braves now enjoy a 10-game lead in the NL East, which is bigger than the leads of the Pirates, Dodgers, Rays, and Tigers COMBINED.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Game 107 Preview: Colorado Rockies (51-56) at Atlanta Braves (61-45)

Pitching Probables (photo cred to @D_Slemp):
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RHP Juan Nicasio (COL) 6-4, 4.40 ERA
LHP Alex Wood (ATL) 0-2, 3.42 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth/MLB Network):

Rockies (2013 season stats):
Dexter Fowler - CF (.270/.369/.451 12 HR 31 RBI)
DJ LeMahieu  - 2B (.274/.316/.361 1 HR 15 RBI)
Carlos Gonzalez - LF (.306/.373/.602 26 HR 69 RBI)
Troy Tulowitzki - SS (.330/.393/.604 19 HR 59 RBI)
Michael Cuddyer - RF (.329/.398/.568 17 HR 62 RBI)
Wilin Rosario - C (.277/.311/.475 15 HR 52 RBI)
Todd Helton - 1B (.259/.328/.397 7 HR 34 RBI)
Nolan Arenado - 3B (.252/.291/.397 8 HR 33 RBI)
Juan Nicasio - P (.174/.269/.174 0 HR 2 RBI)

Braves (career against Nicasio):
Jason Heyward - CF (3-6, 2B, RBI, 2 BB)
Justin Upton - RF (1-2, 3 BB)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (4-6, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Brian McCann - C (N/A)
Chris Johnson - 3B (3-6, 2B, RBI)
Dan Uggla - 2B (2-8, 2B, RBI, 2 K)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Alex Wood - P (N/A)

With Wednesday's trade deadline quickly approaching, the Braves continue to take stock of their starting rotation. While Atlanta's starters have combined to allow just three runs in 20 innings in the weekend series against the Cardinals, last night's starter, Brandon Beachy, did not have as much success. Beachy was knocked around for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in his no decision, albeit it was his first start back from Tommy John surgery.
LHP Alex Wood will give an indication whether they need to continue to look for starting pitching or to ride with their current rotation into the postseason when he takes the mound tonight against the Rockies for his third career Major League start. Wood is still looking for his first career win, going 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 games since being called up in late May. He was a bit rusty in his last outing against the Mets, allowing four runs on eight hits, all of which were singles, in 4 1/3 innings in the no decision.
Opposing Alex Wood tonight will be Rockies SP Juan Nicasio. Since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, Nicasio has been dominant, posting a 0.47 ERA in his last three starts. In that stretch, Nicasio has given up one lone run on eight hits in 19 innings to go along with 15 strikeouts. Needless to say, the Braves lineup will have their hands full tonight.

Rockies call up Culberson:
Shortly before Monday's game, Rockies called up utility man Charlie Culberson from Triple-A and optioned struggling 1B Jordan Pacheco.
Rockies acquired Culberson in last season's trade which involved sending Marco Scutaro to the Giants. In Colorado Springs, Culberson was hitting .310 with eight home runs, 27 doubles, and eight triples.

Braves acquire LHP Scott Downs:
With the need of a lefty arm in the bullpen to help take the load off of Luis Avilan, Braves acquired veteran reliever Scott Downs from the Angels in exchange for Minor League right-hander Cory Rasmus.
Downs has compiled a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances for the Angels this season. He pitched in last night's game, earning the win allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings. Downs adds more depth to an already brilliant Braves bullpen, which leads the Majors with a 2.59 ERA.

Side note:
Braves 3B Chris Johnson continued his hot hitting last night, tallying two more hits to improve his National League-best batting average to .339.
In three career starts against the Braves, Juan Nicasio is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA, but has pitched better in his last three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Game 106 Preview: Colorado Rockies (51-55) at Atlanta Braves (60-45)

Pitching Probables (photo creds to @D_Slemp):
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RHP Jorge De La Rosa (COL) 10-5, 2.97 ERA
RHP Brandon Beachy (ATL) 5-5, 2.00 ERA ('12 season stats)

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Rockies (career vs. Beachy):
Dexter Fowler - CF (1-4, 2 BB, 2 K)
DJ LeMahieu - 2B (N/A)
Carlos Gonzalez - LF (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K)
Troy Tulowitzki - SS (3-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Michael Cuddyer - RF (1-3, RBI)
Todd Helton - 1B (1-3, 2B)
Wilin Rosario - C (N/A)
Nolan Arenado - 3B (N/A)
Jorge De La Rosa - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. De La Rosa):
Jason Heyward - CF (0-3, 2 K)
Justin Upton - RF (6-17, 2B, 4 BB, 4 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (N/A)
Evan Gattis - C (N/A)
Chris Johnson - 3B (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-14, 2 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Joey Terdoslavich - LF (N/A)
Brandon Beachy - P (N/A)

It has been 13 months since Brandon Beachy last appeared in a Major League game. Tonight, he makes his long-awaited season debut as the Braves open up a four-game series with the Rockies at Turner Field. Beachy, who posted a 2.50 ERA in his last four rehab starts, will take Tim Hudson's place in the rotation. After 3 2/3 innings in his last start in the big leagues back on June 16, 2012 against the Orioles, Beachy left the game with what turned out to be a torn UCL, which requires Tommy John surgery. Beachy was scheduled to make his return against the Mets in last month's five-game series, but was scratched due to right elbow inflammation, which forced the right-hander to start his rehab assignment all over.
As for the Rockies, they did not fare too well in their last homestand against some of the worst teams in the National League, going 5-5 against the Cubs, Marlins, and Brewers. Now, they'll be challenged on the road by one of the NL's best.
It doesn't help that the Rockies have been without their All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez for three consecutive games because of a middle finger sprain in his right hand. Gonzalez is in tonight's lineup and will hit third.

Chris Johnson continuing to swing hot bat:
Braves 3B Chris Johnson went 2-for-3 on Saturday, 3-for-4 on Sunday night, and has hit safely in each of his last six games. He's gone 10-for-21 during his hitting streak and now leads the NL in hitting with a .338 batting average.

Rockies roster moves:
Rockies recalled P Jeff Francis was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs to join the team's bullpen. Francis has spent his entire career, almost all of it with the Rockies, as a starting pitcher, but is adjusting to the reliever role smoothly after making a few relief appearances in Triple-A. Rockies needed another lefty arm in their bullpen alongside Josh Outman. Aside from Outman, the only other lefty in the bullpen is Rex Brothers, who is currently the team's closer with Rafael Betancourt on the disabled list.

Side note:
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel joined John Smoltz on Saturday as the only pitchers in Braves franchise history with three 30-save seasons. Kimbrel added his 31st save in last night's 5-2 win over the Cardinals.
Tonight's Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa has been the most consistent pitcher for the club this season, and threw his sixth scoreless start Wednesday against the Marlins. In two career starts against the Braves, De La Rosa is 1-1 with a 7.24 ERA in two career starts.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Game 104 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (62-38) at Atlanta Braves (58-45)

Pitching Probables (photo credits to @D_Slemp):

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RHP Joe Kelly (STL) 1-3, 3.88 ERA
RHP Julio Teheran (ATL) 7-5, 3.25 ERA

Today's Starting Lineups (3:05 pm ET, FOX):

Cardinals (2013 season stats):
Matt Carpenter - 2B (.325/.400/.499 9 HR 50 RBI)
Carlos Beltran - RF (.299/.334/.517 19 HR 55 RBI)
Matt Holliday - LF (.268/.351/.448 13 HR 47 RBI)
Allen Craig - 1B (.331/.377/.485 10 HR 79 RBI)
Yadier Molina - C (.335/.381/.490 8 HR 54 RBI)
David Freese - 3B (.275/.350/.387 5 HR 34 RBI)
Jon Jay - CF (.249/.327/.343 5 HR 39 RBI)
Daniel Descalso - SS (.270/.332/.414 3 HR 26 RBI)
Joe Kelly - P (.125/.125/.125 0 HR 0 RBI)

Braves (2013 season stats):
Jason Heyward - CF (.223/.325/.370 8 HR 22 RBI)
Justin Upton - RF (.249/.342/.439 16 HR 47 RBI)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (.303/.379/.469 11 HR 65 RBI)
Evan Gattis - LF (.259/.317/.548 15 HR 39 RBI)
Brian McCann - C (.286/.372/.527 13 HR 35 RBI)
Dan Uggla - 2B (.205/.321/.438 21 HR 49 RBI)
Chris Johnson - 3B (.329/.368/.458 6 HR 34 RBI)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (.240/.279/.358 11 HR 35 RBI)
Julio Teheran - P (.205/.244/.231 0 HR 1 RBI)

Although he would have liked to have returned sooner if he could, Cardinals OF Matt Holliday is expected to make his return to the lineup this afternoon, in the midst of an 11-game, 10-day road trip in which the Cardinals face three of the NL's best. Holliday had been taking batting practice or over a week and was also cleared to run full speed several days ago while dealing with a strained hamstring. With Cardinals C Yadier Molina fully recovered from his sore knee, the Cardinals will be at full strength for game two of the series against the Braves this afternoon. Holliday brings a .268 average, 13 homers, and 47 RBIs into today's game.
Cardinals starting pitcher Joe Kelly, who's making his third consecutive start, will be in search of his second win of the season. The right-hander allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start, holding the Cubs to one run while striking out four batters.
Opposing Joe Kelly will be Braves SP Julio Teheran, who's coming off a solid outing in which he allowed one run on six hits, two walks, and struck out six in the no decision against the Mets, but the Braves came away with a 2-1 win. Braves are 12-7 in Teheran's starts this season.

BJ Upton, Jordan Schafer injury updates:
Although Braves outfielders BJ Upton and Jordan Schafer are on different schedule as it pertains to returning to the lineup, both were able to test out their injuries that have forced them onto the disabled list. Schafer is likely some weeks away from return from a stress fracture in his ankle, but Upton could return as early as next week from a strained right adductor.
Before Friday's game, BJ was seen running sprints and working on agility to test out his adductor. Upton hopes to begin a rehab assignment early next week, but Schafer only recently started taking swings off a tee.

Shane Robinson seeing more playing time over Jon Jay:
For the fourth time in the last five games, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny started Shane Robinson in center field, in place of Jon Jay, but after going 0-for-3 last night, Robinson was replaced by Jay in the ninth inning of the 4-1 loss.
Robinson had earned the playing time by going 5-for-11 in his last three starts and 7-for-14 in July prior to Friday's game. Jay on the other hand, had gone 17-for-63 to start the month, but Matheny is committed to a platoon in center field.

Side note:
Cardinals are 17-7 against the NL East this season, including an 8-6 record on the road.
After going 0-for-4 last night, Allen Craig is batting .386 (27-for-70) in the month of July.
Braves are the best home team in the Majors, going 32-15 (.681) at Turner Field. Cardinals sport the Majors best road record at 30-21 (.588).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Game 103 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (62-37) at Atlanta Braves (57-45)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Adam Wainwright (STL) 13-5, 2.44 ERA
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 9-5, 2.98 ERA

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

Cardinals (career vs. Minor):
Matt Carpenter - 2B (1-2, HR, RBI)
Shane Robinson - CF (N/A)
Carlos Beltran - RF (4-7, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K)
Allen Craig - LF (1-2, HR, RBI, K)
Yadier Molina - C (0-4, 2 K)
David Freese - 3B (N/A)
Matt Adams - 1B (N/A)
Pete Kozma - SS (N/A)
Adam Wainwright - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. Wainwright):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Jason Heyward - RF (2-8, RBI, 2 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-3, BB, K)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Brian McCann - C (4-17, 2B, 3 RBI, BB, 5 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-22, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (2-11, 3B, 4 K)
Jose Constanza - CF (N/A)
Mike Minor - P (N/A)

Braves pitching has suddenly become a concern. Tim Hudson fractured his right ankle Wednesday, rookie Alex Wood was knocked around by the Mets on Thursday and the Braves aren't looking like a team that ranks in the top four in the Majors with a 3.38 ERA this season. Since the beginning of July, Atlanta has posted a 4.20 ERA, which ranks 22nd this month.
The impending return of Brandon Beachy could help, as could the continued dominance of Mike Minor, who has turned himself into the staff ace this season and will take the mound Friday night as the Braves open up a pivotal three-game series with the Cardinals.
Minor's last outing, an eight-inning masterpiece against the White Sox, resulted in a 3-1 loss in which he allowed just two earned runs while striking out eight.
Minor will try to contain a Cardinals offense which ranks third in the Majors in scoring this season and have the highest run differential, despite having a slight power outage in the month of July. In 17 games this month, the Cardinals have hit just eight home runs, third fewest in baseball. But this club does not need the long ball, winning 26 games this season without leaving the yard. With Adam Wainwright on the mound, too many runs shouldn't be needed.
The Cardinals' ace sports a 2.44 ERA in 2013 and has allowed more than four runs once all season long. He's also lost to the Braves just once in seven career starts, going 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA.
Friday marks a crucial road trip for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who will play 11 games in 10 days, including eight against division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Braves' Beachy to join rotation on Monday:
After a long road back from Tommy John surgery, Braves P Brandon Beachy will make his 2013 debut Monday night against the Rockies. Beachy had his best rehab start on Wednesday, going six innings and allowing just two runs (one earned) and struck out three on 86 pitches.
The 26-year-old righty was off to an amazing start in 2012 before his injury. Beachy at the time, lead the Majors with a 2.00 ERA and opponents were hitting just .171 off him.

Three Cards hitters atop hitting in NL:
Entering play tonight, Cardinals C Yadier Molina leads the National League with a .336 average, 1B/OF Allen Craig is second with a .334 average, and 2B Matt Carpenter is fifth with a .325 average.
It's no wonder the Cardinals are scoring runs without the home run ball. While the three have combined for 26 homers this season, they've driven in 182 runs and each ranks in the top 25 among NL position players in WAR.

Side note:
Yadier Molina has struck out in about 8.8% of his plate appearances, making him the fourth-toughest player to strike out in the NL.
Braves C/OF Evan Gattis has simply been on fire since being activated from the 15-day disabled list on July 14. He's gone 9-for-32 with three multi-hit games to go with a homer.
Cardinals CF Jon Jay, one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, carries a 241-game errorless streak coming into play Friday night, which is the longest active streak in the NL.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Game 102 Preview: Atlanta Braves (57-44) at New York Mets (44-53)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Alex Wood (ATL) 0-2, 2.45 ERA
RHP Zack Wheeler (NYM) 3-1, 3.58 ERA

Today's Starting Lineups (12:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Wheeler)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (1-1, 2 BB)
Reed Johnson - CF (N/A)
Justin Upton - RF (0-3, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-1, 2 BB)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (1-3, 2B, K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (1-3, K)
Gerald Laird - C (N/A)
Alex Wood - P (N/A)

Mets (career vs. Wood):
Eric Young Jr. - LF (N/A)
Daniel Murphy - 2B (1-2)
David Wright - 3B (0-1, BB)
Marlon Byrd - RF (1-1, RBI, BB)
Josh Satin - 1B (N/A)
Justin Turner - SS (N/A)
John Buck - C (0-1, K)
Juan Lagares - CF (0-1, K)
Zack Wheeler - P (N/A)

Earlier this season, Alex Wood has proved he can be efficient as a reliever. Today, Wood makes his second Major League start with a chance to earn and keep a spot in the Braves starting rotation.
Wood, a 1st round pick, left-handed rookie, has allowed just six earned runs and has a WHIP of 1.09 in 22 innings this season, primarily as a reliever. His lone Major League start came against the Mets in game 1 of a doubleheader on June 18. Wood allowed one run, walked three, and struck out five in three innings.
Braves sent Alex Wood down to Triple-A Gwinnett last Thursday to stretch his arm out to start. He surrendered a run in five innings in his one start. Paul Maholm's spot in the rotation opened up after he was put on the 15-day disabled list for a left wrist contusion, giving Wood at least two starts with Maholm sidelined.
Zack Wheeler takes the mound in today's series finale for the Mets. In his two starts at Citi Field, Wheeler is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. In his last start against the Phillies, Wheeler allowed two runs over 4 2/3 innings and was hampered by a blister during the day which worsened in the later innings.
Mets manager Terry Collins originally mulled the idea of bumping Wheeler's start to one of the doubleheader games on Friday against the Nationals, but is good enough to make today's start in regular rest.
Wheeler made his Major League debut against the Braves back on June 18 and tossed six scoreless innings while allowing four hits and struck out seven, but walked five batters.

Brandon Beachy could rejoin rotation next week:
It has been a long road back to the Majors for Brandon Beachy. The starter underwent Tommy John surgery last year and had inflammation in his surgically repaired right elbow during his rehab starts this season. Including last night's start in Triple-A Gwinnett, Beachy has made eight rehab starts and his likely to move into the rotation with Tim Hudson's injury. Beachy was 5-5 with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts last season before injuring his elbow.

Tim Hudson fractures ankle, out for season:
Tim Hudson was absolutely dealing in by far his best start of the season, but it was short-lived as he sustained a gruesome right ankle injury in the eighth inning of last night's game against the Mets when Eric Young Jr. spiked his ankle as he was trying to step on the first base bag, fracturing Hudson's ankle. The right-hander will have surgery in Atlanta once the swelling goes down and will miss the rest of the season.

Ike Davis trying to get going at the plate:
It's been a tough season to say the least for Mets 1B/OF Ike Davis. From a stint in Triple-A to his .175 batting average. He tried something different in Tuesday's game against the Braves and laid down a bunt. Though it did not work, it's something he may try again just to get his bat going.
Davis did not bunt in last night's game and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. Since being called back up from the Minors, Davis is 10-for-42 (.238).

Side note:
Despite last night's 8-2 loss to the Braves, Mets are 19-13 since June 18, and 11-8 in July.
Braves scored eight runs in last night's win and was the first time they scored more than seven runs in a game since July 6 when they put up 13 runs against the Phillies.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Game 101 Preview: Atlanta Braves (56-44) at New York Mets (44-52)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Tim Hudson (ATL) 7-7, 4.08 ERA
RHP Jeremy Hefner (NYM) 4-7, 3.93 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Hefner):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (0-3)
Jason Heyward - CF (1-5, 2B, BB)
Justin Upton - RF (0-2, BB, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (3-7, 2 HR, 6 RBI, K)
Brian McCann - C (4-7, 2B, 2 RBI)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (2-5, BB, 2 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (N/A)
Tim Hudson - P (N/A)

Mets (career vs. Hudson):
Eric Young Jr. - LF (0-6, K)
Daniel Murphy - 2B (4-20, 2B, BB, 3 K)
David Wright - 3B (18-74, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 8 K)
Marlon Byrd - RF (1-8, 4 K)
Ike Davis - 1B (4-16, 2B, 5 BB, 3 K)      
Kirk Nieuwenhuis - CF (1-4, 2 RBI, BB, K)
Anthony Recker - C (N/A)
Omar Qunitanilla - SS (0-2, BB, K)
Jeremy Hefner - P (N/A)

Jeremy Hefner and Tim Hudson knocked off the rust with varying degrees of success in their last start last Friday night, but with the way this series has gone offensively for both teams, neither starting pitcher should expect any run support. So far in the series between the Braves and Mets, the offenses have combined for just eight runs and have left 29 runners on base.
For Mets starter Jeremy Hefner, tonight could not come any sooner after he was ripped for eight runs on 10 hits and last Friday's 13-8 loss to the Phillies before getting the hook from Terry Collins. The eight runs Hefner allowed were as many as he had in his previous six starts combined.
Meanwhile, Hudson nearly squandered the three-run lead Brian McCann staked him to on Friday, but had an overall solid outing, allowing four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings as the Bravs opened up their post-All-Star break schedule with a 6-4 win over the White Sox. Hudson has been getting more run support lately than earlier in the season. Braves have won Hudson's last four starts, whilst giving him six or more runs of support in each start. Prior to that stretch, Braves had scored five runs or less in Hudson's nine previous starts.

No timetable for BJ's return:
Braves CF BJ Upton has been cleared to resume jogging exercises and hitting off a tee, his first baseball-related activity since straining his right adductor muscle diving for a line drive on July 12. Braves have not established a timetable for Upton's return, and will not be ready to come off of the disabled list when he is eligible on Saturday, but he could begin a Minor League rehab stint as early as next week.

Shaun Marcum released, Mets to start Jenrry Mejia Friday:
Mets released P Shaun Marcum shortly before Tuesday's game after receiving confirmation that the injured right-hander was unlikely to pitch again this season. Marcum was placed on the disabled list on July 9 and underwent shoulder surgery after he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which compresses the nerves or blood vessels just below the neck.
Mets have also announced that 23-year-old right-hander Jenrry Mejia will start game 1 of a doubleheader on Friday against the Nationals. Mejia will make his first appearance of the season after allowing one run in his first two starts for Double-A Binghamton.

Side note:
Braves SS Andrelton Simmons hit his third career leadoff home run in last night's 4-1 loss to the Mets.
Mets 1B Ike Davis continued his hot hitting against the Braves this season with an RBI double in last night's game. Although Davis has been inconsistent at the plate for the entire season, he is 7-for-21 (.333) with four RBIs against the Braves in 2013.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Game 100 Preview: Atlanta Braves (56-43) at New York Mets (43-52)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Kris Medlen (ATL) 6-9, 3.64 ERA
RHP Carlos Torres (NYM) 0-1, 0.79 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineup (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Torres):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (0-1)
Jason Heyward - CF (1-3)
Justin Upton - RF (0-2, BB, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-2)
Brian McCann - C (0-1, K)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (0-2, K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (0-2, K)
Kris Medlen - P (0-0, BB)

Mets (career vs. Medlen):
Eric Young Jr. - LF (1-3, K)
Daniel Murphy - 2B (4-19, 2 2B, RBI, 2 K)
David Wright - 3B (5-22, 2B, 2 BB, 7 K)
Marlon Byrd - RF (2-7, RBI, 4 K)
Ike Davis - 1B (4-18, HR, RBI, 5 BB, 5 K)
John Buck - C (1-8, HR, RBI, BB, 2 K)
Juan Lagares - CF (N/A)
Omar Quintanilla - SS (0-3)
Carlos Torres - P (N/A)

When Shaun Marcum struggled in his June 19 start against the Braves, Carlos Torres proved his worth by striking out four in 2 1/3 impressive innings just a few days after being promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas. Looking back, it was the performance that ultimately led Torres to taking Marcum's spot in the rotation. Tonight, Torres will make his second start since replacing Marcum as the Mets look to even up the four-game series against Braves starter Kris Medlen.
In the Saturday before the All-Star break, Torres allowed just one run over five innings and struck out five Pirates in the 4-2 loss. It was Torres' first Major League start since 2010.
Kris Medlen has also seen his spot in the rotation called into question as the Braves have been weighing their options of getting Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood into the rotation by the end of the month. Braves sent Wood down to Triple-A Gwinnett just before the All-Star break to get stretched out to start and will make his second Major League start Thursday afternoon, opposing Mets starter Zack Wheeler. Beachy will make his final rehab start before making his return from Tommy John surgery and right elbow inflammation.
In the meantime, Medlen has seen the mechanics issues that plagued him earlier this season reemerge, making the right-hander a likely candidate to return to the bullpen. In his last two starts, Medlen has allowed 10 runs on 17 hits.

Maholm to 15-day DL, Wood to start on Thursday:
Braves officially place LHP Paul Maholm on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion after he left his start early against the White Sox last Saturday. While the lefty recovers, Alex Wood gets his first chance to take over Maholm's spot in the rotation on Thursday against the Mets. Wood made his first Major League start against the same Mets on June 18, lasting just three innings in the 4-3 loss.

Jason Heyward's return:
Although he went 0-for-3 at the plate in last night's game, Braves OF Jason Heyward returned with a flourish after missing six games with a strained right hamstring, making the game-saving diving catch in center field with two outs and two runners on base in the ninth inning, which likely would have scored both if Heyward does not make the catch.

Juan Lagares named NL Player of the Week:
With his 7-for-10, five-RBI performance at the plate in the first series after the All-Star break, Mets CF Juan Lagares was rewarded with National League Player of the Week honors before Monday's game. However, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is still expected to see majority of the playing time in center field. Lagares did replace Nieuwenhuis in the seventh inning of last night's game, going 0-for-2 with a groundout and a strikeout. Lagares is in the lineup tonight, playing in center field and will hit seventh.

Side note:
Mets are 15-11 since taking three of five from the Braves back in mid-June.
Braves notched their 30th comeback victory this season, which is tied with the Kansas City Royals for the most in the Majors.
Mets lost their fifth game of the season last night when leading after eight innings. Their record in one-run games dropped to 17-18.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Game 99 Preview: Atlanta Braves (55-43) at New York Mets (43-51)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Julio Teheran (ATL) 7-5, 3.35 ERA
RHP Dillon Gee (NYM) 7-7, 4.32 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Gee):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (2-7, 2B, K)
Jason Heyward - CF (8-19, HR, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K)
Justin Upton - RF (4-15, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 7 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (5-18, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, K)
Brian McCann - C (3-16, 2B, 3 BB, 2 K)
Evan Gattis - LF (0-6, 2 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-24, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 5 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (3-7, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 K)
Julio Teheran - P (0-1)

Mets (career vs. Teheran):
Eric Young Jr. - LF (2-4, K)
Daniel Murphy - 2B (0-2, BB)
David Wright - 3B (1-5, HR, 3 RBI)
Marlon Byrd - RF (0-2, BB, K)
Ike Davis - 1B (1-2, BB)
John Buck - C (0-3, K)
Kirk Nieuwenhuis - CF (N/A)
Omar Quintanilla - SS (N/A)
Dillon Gee - P (0-1, K)

Mets SP Dillon Gee can't catch a break against the Braves this season. In the Mets' first meeting with Atlanta this season, on May 25, the Mets offense struck out 12 times and did not give Gee any run support in a 6-0 loss. Then, on June 17, after tossing 8 1/3 near-perfect innings at Turner Field, Gee surrendered a single and a Freddie Freeman walk-off homer to take a brutal 2-1 loss.
Mets offense looks to give Gee some much needed run support and continue to play spoiler in the NL East as they kick off a four-game set with the first-place Braves tonight at Citi Field. Since Gee's latest misfortune against the Braves, he has posted a 2.73 ERA in his last four starts, pitching at least six innings in each. He managed to pull his record to .500 for the first time this season in his last start before the All-Star break against the Pirates. Gee scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings in the 4-2 win, despite battling blisters on his feet.
Braves starter Julio Teheran limped into the break with one of his shortest outings of the season and will take the mound tonight in hopes that the extra days of rest solves his recent fatigue issues. In his final start before the All-Star break, Teheran lasted 5 1/3 innings while giving up five earned runs to the Reds. In his only start this season against the Mets, Teheran allowed just one run, but was tagged with the loss back on May 26.

Braves call up Kameron Loe, send Pastornicky to Gwinnett:
After Paul Maholm's early exit on Saturday put added strain on the bullpen, the Braves purchased the contract of reliever Kameron Loe from Triple-A Gwinnett before Sunday's game. To make room for Loe, Braves optioned INF Tyler Pastornicky to Gwinnett. Pastornicky had appeared in 12 games this season for the Braves, hitting .353 while seeing playing time at second base, shortstop, and center field.
Loe made 11 relief appearances for the Cubs and Mariners earlier in the season before signing a Minor League contract with the Braves on May 11. In 21 appearances for Gwinnett, Loe has a 3.19 ERA while holding opponents to a .252 batting average.

Paul Maholm injury update:
Maholm, who left Saturday's game against the White Sox with a sprained left wrist, returned to Atlanta on Sunday to have his wrist examined. The club did not rule out the veteran left-hander for his next start, which is scheduled to come Thursday afternoon against rookie Zack Wheeler in the series finale against the Mets.

Jason Heyward back in lineup:
Heyward missed his sixth consecutive game Sunday, recovering from a strained right hamstring, but would have been available as a defensive replacement if needed. The Braves starting right fielder is back in the lineup for the first time since July 11 and will hit second in the lineup. Heyward will also play in center field until BJ Upton is activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Mets' Justin Turner activated from disabled list:
Mets INF Justin Turner is ready to return from a strained left intercoastal that landed him on the disabled list back on June 18. Manager Terry Collins stated that it is likely that Turner could replace one of the 13 pitchers on the 25-man roster. Turner went 0-for-2 with a walk on Saturday while rehabbing for Class A Brooklyn and has hit .280 in eight rehab games.

Side note:
Braves and Mets have split their 12 meeting this season.
Braves C Gerald Laird left Sunday's game in the fourth inning with a left hand contusion after being hit by White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana. Laird was listed as day-to-day.
Mets have surged to within three games of third place Washington in the NL East, winning seven of their last 10 games.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Game 98 Preview: Atlanta Braves (55-42) at Chicago White Sox (38-56)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 9-4, 3.02 ERA
LHP Jose Quintana (CHW) 4-2, 3.71 ERA

Today's Starting Lineups (2:10 pm ET, FS South/WGN):

Braves (2013 season stats):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (.243/.281/.354 9 HR 32 RBI)
Chris Johnson - 3B (.335/.374/.471 6 HR 32 RBI)
Justin Upton - LF (.261/.356/.463 16 HR 46 RBI)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (.308/.385/.476 10 HR 64 RBI)
Brian McCann - DH (.289/.369/.540 13 HR 35 RBI)
Evan Gattis - LF (.246/.308/.554 14 HR 37 RBI)
Dan Uggla - 2B (.199/.313/.426 19 HR 44 RBI)
Reed Johnson - CF (.248/.321/.356 1 HR 10 RBI)
Gerald Laird - C (.296/.375/.408 1 HR 11 RBI)

White Sox (2013 season stats):
Alejandro De Aza - CF (.278/.334/.442 12 HR 44 RBI)
Alexei Ramirez - SS (.289/.314/.363 1 HR 23 RBI)
Alex Rios - RF (.275/.330/.442 12 HR 47 RBI)
Adam Dunn - 1B (.210/.313/.468 24 HR 60 RBI)
Jeff Keppinger - 2B (.248/.276/.295 2 HR 28 RBI)
Dayan Viciedo - DH (.240/.287/.388 7 HR 28 RBI)
Casper Wells - LF (.173/.246/.192 0 HR 1 RBI)
Brent Morel - 3B (.227/.370/.227 0 HR 1 RBI)
Tyler Flowers - C (.205/.255/.365 8 HR 22 RBI)

After blowing an early 4-0 lead, the Braves look to put Saturday's 10-6 loss behind them and get a nice winning streak going, starting with today's rubber match at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox.
Braves did not have enough firepower to keep up with the Sox on Saturday, but RF Jason Heyward's impending return represents another step toward full strength for an offense that limped into the All-Star break. Heyward missed five games sandwiched around the break with a strained right hamstring and has been eased back to 100 percent to avoid a second trip to the disabled list this season. Heyward is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow against the Mets and play center field until BJ Upton returns from his right adductor strain.
Given their situation, the Braves could send no better pitcher to the mound than Mike Minor, who has battled through rough patches in the last month, but kept his composure in back-to-back wins in his final two starts before the break. In his most recent start on July 13, Minor allowed just two runs, escaping a bases loaded jam to last seven innings and striking out seven Reds.
White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana looks to build off Jake Peavy's impressive return on Saturday, who made his first start since fracturing a rib on June 4 against the Mariners. Quintana has done some battling of his own this season, but has not gotten the benefit of the win. Quintana's 13 no-decisions are the most in the Majors.

Maholm struggles, then leaves game with sprained left wrist:
The All-Star break did little to curb Paul Maholm's recent struggles. In his shortest outing of the season yesterday, Maholm allowed seven runs before leaving in the fourth inning with a sprained left wrist.
After a string of four victorious starts where Maholm went at least six innings, the Braves are 2-5 in his last seven starts since June 2. Opponents have hit for a .310 average with six home runs in that seven start span.

Alex Rios benched Friday, responds with grand slam Saturday:
After White Sox manager Robin Ventura sent a message on Friday night with a midgame benching of Alex Rios, the struggling outfielder responded on Saturday with a three-hit, five RBI afternoon, highlighted by hitting the go-ahead grand slam in the third inning.
In the fifth inning of Friday's loss to the Braves, Rios put his head down in frustration and did not run out a grounder that was bobbled by Andrelton Simmons. If Rios had been running out of the box, it is likely the Braves do not turn the inning-ending double play and a run would have scored. Rios was later replaced by Casper Wells in right field.

Side note:
Braves 1B Freddie Freeman returned to the starting lineup on Saturday after a jammed left thumb kept him out of Tuesday's All-Star Game. Freeman went 1-for-3, including a homer and three RBIs.
Dan Uggla extended his team lead in home runs with a two-run shot in the second inning on Saturday, his 19th of the season.
Paul Maholm has taken the loss in each of the two games this season in which the Braves have allowed 10 runs or more.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Game 97 Preview: Atlanta Braves (55-41) at Chicago White Sox (37-56)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Paul Maholm (ATL) 9-8, 3.98 ERA
RHP Jake Peavy (CHW) 6-4, 4.30 ERA

Today's Starting Lineups (4:05 pm ET, FOX):

Braves (career vs. Peavy):
Jose Constanza - CF (N/A)
Chris Johnson - 3B (N/A)
Justin Upton - RF (4-6, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (N/A)
Brian McCann - DH (3-9, 2B, HR, RBI, K)
Evan Gattis - C (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (2-11, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB, 6 K)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Joey Terdoslavich - LF (N/A)

White Sox (career vs. Maholm):
Alejandro De Aza - CF (2-4, K)
Alexei Ramirez - SS (0-3, 2 K)
Alex Rios - RF (0-3)
Dayan Viciedo - LF (1-3)
Jeff Keppinger - 1B (12-40, 4 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Casper Wells - DH (1-2, RBI, K)
Gordon Beckham - 2B (1-3, HR, RBI)
Josh Phegley - C (N/A)
Brent Morel - 3B (N/A)

The swirling trade rumors for both Paul Maholm and Jake Peavy are intensifying as the trade deadline draws nearer, but for Peavy, today might as well be Opening Day all over again.
Back from a fractured left rib that left him sidelined for six weeks, Jake Peavy will take the mound for the first time since June 4 as the White Sox take on Braves in the second of a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. White Sox manager Robin Ventura stated that Peavy will not be on a pitch count, but will be monitored closely after the extended layoff.
Peavy left his June 4 start against the Mariners after 2 1/3 innings with the fractured rib. White Sox are 13-23 since his injury.
As for Braves SP Paul Maholm will make his first start of the second half seeking his team-leading 10th win. Maholm has struggled in the first inning in his last three starts, giving up at least one run in the opening frame. The lefty will also look to reverse his misfortune away from Turner Field, where he holds a 5.37 ERA with 27 walks in 12 road starts this season which is a considerable dropoff from his 1.93 ERA with seven walks in seven home starts.

Braves stars set to return:
Braves OF Justin Upton was the first of four Braves ailing outfielders to make his return to the lineup last night, collecting a pair of hits after missing two games with a left calf strain. Fellow corner outfielder Jason Heyward is not far behind in his return, although he is not in today's lineup. BJ Upton is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right adductor muscle while Jordan Schafer nurses a stress fracture in his right ankle after fouling a ball off it in Kansas City last month. The earliest date for BJ Upton to return his July 28 against the Cardinals. Schafer will be out for at least another month.
First basemen Freddie Freeman entered last night's game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement and his in today's starting lineup for the first time since jamming his left thumb in last Saturday's game against the Reds. Freeman came away unscathed from a collision with Adam Dunn last night after Dan Uggla's throw pulled Freeman off the bag and into Dunn's path.

Phegley back in lineup for Sox:
White Sox C Josh Phegley did not have to miss any games thanks to the All-Star break after taking a foul ball off his right index finger in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. Phegley went 0-for-3 in last night's game, which marked only the eighth time in his Major League career in which he did not record a hit.

Side note:
Jake Peavy is 2-4 in seven career starts against the Braves with a 3.97 ERA, which is his third-highest ERA against a National League team.
Brian McCann has homered in three consecutive games after his go-ahead, three-run home run off John Danks in last night's 6-4 win.
Braves still hold the largest division lead in the Majors, holding a 6.5 game lead over second place Phillies and seven games over the Nationals.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Game 96 Preview: Atlanta Braves (54-41) at Chicago White Sox (37-55)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Tim Hudson (ATL) 6-7, 4.02 ERA
LHP John Danks (CHW) 2-6, 4.31 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (8:10 pm ET/FS South):

Braves (career vs. Danks):
Jose Constanza - LF (N/A)
Reed Johnson - CF (1-6, 2 K)
Justin Upton - RF (0-2, RBI)
Brian McCann - C (0-3, K)
Evan Gattis - DH (N/A)
Dan Uggla - 2B (1-3, 2B, RBI, K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (N/A)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Joey Terdoslavich - 1B (N/A)

White Sox (career vs. Hudson):
Alejandro De Aza - CF (N/A)
Alexei Ramirez - SS (0-1, 2 BB)
Alex Rios - RF (3-16, RBI, 3 K)
Adam Dunn - DH (11-31, 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBI, BB, 5 K)
Jeff Keppinger - 1B (9-17, 2B, 2 K)
Conor Gillaspie - 3B (N/A)
Dayan Viciedo - LF (N/A)
Gordon Beckham - 2B (0-3, K)
Josh Phegley - C (N/A)

The first half of the season for the Braves and White Sox went in dramatically different directions. Chicago finished with the second-worst record in the American League, while Atlanta had the third-best record in the National League. These diverging clubs with get together for a three-game weekend series at U.S. Cellular Field tonight.
A major part of the White Sox's struggles stems from the ability to generate much offense. The club has only outscored one team in the MLB, the Marlins, which is the direct opposite from this time last season, when the White Sox were among the top 10 in the league in runs scored.
The All-Star break also did wonders for the Braves, but for a completely different reason. Atlanta limped into the break with minor ailments to Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and BJ Upton was put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained adductor muscle.
Attempting to continue the Braves' first-half momentum will be Tim Hudson, who opposes White Sox starter John Danks on the mound tonight. Hudson struggled during the month of May, but has since found his form over the past month and a half. Over his last eight starts, Hudson has allowed more than three runs once, and has posted seven quality starts during that eight-start span. In his last start against the Reds, he kept the Cincinnati lineup in check, allowing three runs while scattering eight hits, and struck out five over seven innings in the 6-5 win last Thursday night.

Jake Peavy will be activated from DL, to start Saturday vs. Braves:
White Sox SP Jake Peavy will be activated from the disabled list in time for Saturday's game against the Braves. Peavy is recovering from a left rib fracture suffered in the June 4 start against the Mariners. Peavy completed his final rehab start for Double-A Birmingham on Sunday, and threw 90 pitches, 57 of which were strikes in five innings. Peavy, who is on the trading block, could showcase his talents with the possibility of being traded to a contender before the July 31 trade deadline.

BJ to disabled list, Gattis and J. Upton make respective returns, Freeman, Heyward remain out:
Braves C/OF Evan Gattis returned to the Braves in the team's first-hlaf finale against the Reds, but BJ Upton took his place on the disabled list.
Braves 1B Freddie Freeman sat out of Tuesday's All-Star with a sore thumb suffered in last Saturday's game against the Reds when he jammed the thumb while tagging Chris Heisey in the 1st inning. Freeman could be back in the lineup this weekend against the White Sox.
Jason Heyward, who strained his hamstring sliding into third base in last Thursday's game against the Reds, is not in the lineup tonight, but will return as well at some point this weekend.

Side note:
Braves' 54 wins are tied for the seventh-most wins in franchise history before the All-Star break. The record is held by the 2003 team, which won 61 games before the break.
White Sox have not won consecutive series since May 20-22 against the Red Sox and May 24-26 against the Marlins.
White Sox reliever Jesse Crain did not pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game due to a sprained right shoulder.
Tim Hudson's career ERA against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field is 10.45, which is the highest against any team in an opposing ballpark in his career.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Game 94 Preview: Cincinnati Reds (52-41) at Atlanta Braves (53-40)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Homer Bailey (CIN) 5-7, 3.70 ERA
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 8-4, 3.05 ERA

Today's Starting Lineups (4:05 pm ET, FS South):

Reds (career vs. Minor):
Chris Heisey - LF (N/A)
Shin-Soo Choo - CF (0-3, K)
Joey Votto - 1B (0-4, 2 BB, 2 K)
Brandon Phillips - 2B (1-6, 2B, 2 K)
Jay Bruce - RF (0-4, 2 BB, K)
Todd Frazier - 3B (0-5, BB, 4 K)
Zack Cozart - SS (3-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI)
Corky Miller - C (N/A)
Homer Bailey - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. Bailey):
Jose Constanza - LF (N/A)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (1-3, 2B, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (2-8, RBI, BB)
Brian McCann - C (1-7, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (3-15, RBI, 3 BB, 2 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (0-9, 5 K)
Reed Johnson - CF (0-3, BB)
Joey Terdoslavich - RF (N/A)
Mike Minor - P (N/A)

The road has not been kind to the Reds as of late, as Friday's win over the Braves was just their fourth in the last 13 games away from Great American Ball Park. Reds are 2-3 on their current seven-game road trip and are 22-25 away from home this season.
Reds SP Homer Bailey, who takes the mound this afternoon, has struggled on the road as well. Bailey has surrendered four runs in six innings or less in each of his last two road starts and is just 2-6 with a 4.61 ERA in eight road starts in 2013. Bailey entered his last start coming off his second no-hitter of his career, but struggled to bring the momentum with him against the Brewers, where he failed to make it out of the sixth inning after allowing four runs on 10 hits and walked three batters. All four of the runs he allowed came with two outs.
Mike Minor, who starts for the Braves today, has had trouble getting going at home this season. In nine starts this season at Turner Field, the lefty is 2-3 with a 3.61 ERA. Minor has allowed four earned runs in each of his last three home starts and has taken the loss in two of those outings. The long ball has been a major issue again for Minor this season as he has given up 14 of them this season, nine of which have come at Turner Field. He looks to reverse his trend as he faces a powerful Reds lineup.

Injury bug bites outfield:
Braves RF Jason Heyward likely won't need a DL trip for his strained right hamstring, but will sit out the final two games before the All-Star break.  Heyward injured his hamstring running from first to third in Thursday night's game against the Reds, but felt much better yesterday. For the season, Heyward is hitting .227 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 67 games.
Braves will be without the services of BJ and Justin Upton for the remainder of the series as well after the brothers left last night's game with injuries.
BJ Upton sustained a right adductor muscle strain when he sprinted in and dove to try to catch a line drive off the bat of Todd Frazier. His knee struck the ground, twisting the rest of his body awkwardly. Justin Upton's injury came in the seventh inning, when he exited with a left calf strain after trying to leg out a single off Bronson Arroyo. A DL trip for either brother are unlikely at this point.

Shin-Soo Choo streaking:
With a 2-for-5 performance in last night's game, Reds CF Shin-Soo Choo extended his season-high hit streak to 10 games. Choo has gone 17-for-42 (.405) during that stretch with four doubles and three RBIs. In the five games on the Reds road trip, Choo has gone 9-for-22 (.409) with six runs scored.

Side note:
Homer Bailey is 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA in four career starts against the Braves, including a no-decision on May 7, when he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks in five innings.
Mike Minor has seen the Reds twice prior to today's start, most recently limiting their offense to a single run on four hits in seven innings on May 8.
Reds have not won back-to-back road games since beating the Cubs in three straight games June 10-12.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Game 93 Preview: Cincinnati Reds (51-41) at Atlanta Braves (53-39)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Bronson Arroyo (CIN) 7-7, 3.55 ERA
RHP Kris Medlen (ATL) 6-8, 3.45 ERA

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

Reds (career vs. Medlen):
Shin-Soo Choo - CF (1-3, HR, RBI, K)
Derrick Robinson - LF (N/A)
Joey Votto - 1B (3-6, 2 2B, RBI)
Brandon Phillips - 2B (1-6, K)
Jay Bruce - RF (0-6, 4 K)
Todd Frazier - 3B (0-2, K)
Zack Cozart - SS (1-5, K)
Devin Mesoraco - C (1-2, HR, 4 RBI)
Bronson Arroyo - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. Arroyo):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (2-2, HR, 2 RBI)
Reed Johnson - RF (3-16, 3 RBI, 3 K)
Justin Upton - LF (8-29, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (5-10, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Brian McCann - C (9-20, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (7-21, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (4-12, 3 2B, 2 BB, K)
BJ Upton - CF (0-7, 5 K)
Kris Medlen - P (N/A)

The last time Braves starter Kris Medlen faced the Reds on May 7, he turned in one of his best outings of the season, allowing two runs on four hits in seven solid innings, but he did so in what turned out to be a heartbreaking loss for the Braves. Tonight at Turner Field, he'll look to duplicate his brilliant outing and also get his record a game closer to .500 on the season.
In that May start against the Reds, Medlen was in line for the win when he left the ballgame, but the bullpen gave up three runs, including back-to-back homers from Devin Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to end the game. In the first four innings of his start, Medlen gave up a single hit, a homer, and said afterwards that it was the best he's felt all season to that point.
But in his last start against the Phillies last Sunday, Medlen allowed a career-high seven runs (six earned). Six of those seven runs came with two outs, with the other coming on a Domonic Brown home run.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo also pitched in the May series against the Braves. Arroyo allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings, Arroyo's second-shortest outing of the season. In his last start against the Mariners, Arroyo allowed three runs on five hits, walked one, and struck out six in six innings in the 3-1 loss.

Jason Heyward injury:
Braves RF Jason Heyward left last night's game in the second inning after straining his right hamstring sliding into third base. Heyward walked off the field under his own power and was re-evaluated today. Braves will rest Heyward for the remainder of the weekend series against the Reds and during the All-Star break.

Freeman wins NL Final Vote:
Braves 1B Freddie Freeman received a standing ovation before his first at-bat last night as he won the Final Vote for the last spot on the NL's All-Star roster. As part of a record-setting turnout, Freddie Freeman received more votes (19.7 million) than any other player ever has in the process. He beat out heavy favorite Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers. Freeman thanked the fans by going 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs last night.

Reds' Ryan Hanigan to the DL:
Reds catchers Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan have been banged up as of late. The only way Hanigan's strained left wrist will get any better is to give it rest which led to the Reds' decision of putting him on the disabled list before Thursday's game against the Braves. In a corresponding move, Reds called up veteran catcher Corky Miller from Triple-A Louisville. In six games this season, Miller is hitting a mere .125.

Side note:
Braves 3B Chris Johnson extended his season-best hitting streak to 12 games with a 1-for-4 effort on Thursday. During the streak, Johnson is hitting .396 (19-for-48) with six multi-hit games.
Reds set franchise record on Thursday night when the bullpen notched its 10th straight game without surrendering a run. Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon pitched two scoreless frames in the series opener against the Braves, making it 28 2/3 innings without a run off a reliever.
Brian McCann, the NL's reigning Co-Player of the Week alongside Reds SP Homer Bailey, enters Friday with a .450 batting average (9-for-20), four homers, and seven RBIs against Bronson Arroyo.
Reds CF Shin-Soo Choo is 7-for-17 (.412) on the current road trip and carries a nine-game hitting streak into tonight's game against the Braves.
Braves are the best home team in baseball to this point in the season, going 30-13 (.698) at Turner Field.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Game 89 Preview: Atlanta Braves (50-38) at Miami Marlins (32-55)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 8-4, 3.15 ERA
RHP Kevin Slowey (MIA) 3-6, 4.24 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Slowey):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (1-4, 3B, RBI)
Jason Heyward - RF (2-6, 2B, RBI, BB, K)
Justin Upton - LF (4-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-2)
Brian McCann - C (2-7, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (0-5, RBI, K)
BJ Upton - CF (2-6, HR, RBI, K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (3-4)
Mike Minor - P (N/A)

Marlins (career vs. Minor):
Justin Ruggiano - LF (4-10, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, K)
Ed Lucas - 3B (1-3, K)
Giancarlo Stanton - RF (2-11, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K)
Marcell Ozuna - CF (0-3, K)
Logan Morrison - 1B (3-10, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K)
Adeiny Hechavarria - SS (1-5, 2B, RBI, 2 K)
Derek Dietrich - 2B (N/A)
Jeff Mathis - C (0-2, BB, 2 K)
Kevin Slowey - P (N/A)

After trading Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers on Saturday, the Marlins will give former Twins SP Kevin Slowey another chance in the rotation. 
Slowey, who was moved to the bullpen in June, will pitch for Miami in its series opener against Atlanta Monday night at Marlins Park. He'll have some tough competition as Mike Minor toes the rubber for the Braves, opposing Slowey. In just 13 starts this season, Slowey is 1-6 with a 4.50 ERA. June 12, the last time Slowey made a start, he struggled mightily against the Brewers, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits and struck out six over five innings in the 10-1 loss. Before trading Nolasco, Marlins manager Mike Redmond wasn't sure if Nolasco would be dealt so he made sure Slowey was rested enough to replace Nolasco in the rotation. In four relief appearances, Slowey went 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. Slowey faces a tough Braves lineup tonight. While they lost two of three to the Phillies this weekend, the club did pound out 13 runs on 19 hits in Saturday's runaway victory. Slowey did pitch against the Braves last week in Atlanta, giving up four runs on five hits, walked two, and struck out two in two innings out of the bullpen.
Mike Minor takes the mound for the Braves in the series opener tonight in Miami, having lost in his last start, to these same Marlins, in which he allowed four runs on six hits, walked three, and struck out nine over six innings in the 6-3 loss last Wednesday. Minor has not won a game since June 9, when he beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles. He looks to reverse his recent trend tonight as the Braves begin an important series with the Marlins with the Nationals bearing down on them in the division.

Marlins recall Hatcher, Hechavarria on fire:
Miami recalled right-hander Chris Hatcher from Triple-A New Orleans to take Nolasco's roster spot. While in Triple-A, Hatcher converted 24 of 25 save opportunities which earned him a spot on the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria carries a season-high seven-game hitting streak into tonight's game. In that stretch, Hechavarria is hitting .423.

Brian McCann, Chris Johnson scorching:
Braves C Brian McCann's double in the fifth inning Saturday night was a big part of the 13-4 outburst on the Phillies. He followed his hot hitting with a 3-for-4 performance on Sunday. In his last 11 games, McCann is hitting a red-hot .512.
Third basemen Chris Johnson also continued his hot hitting with a solo home run in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Phillies. In his last 12 games, Johnson is hitting .409 with two homers and eight RBIs.

Side note:
Mike Minor has given up at least four earned runs in three of his last four starts, including his last outing against the Marlins. He did that only once in his first 13 starts to begin the season.
Miami and Atlanta has played two series, six games, this season, with the Braves sweeping the Marlins in the first series back in April and the Marlins winning two of three last week.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Game 87 Preview: Atlanta Braves (49-37) at Philadelphia Phillies (42-45)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Tim Hudson (ATL) 4-7, 4.22 ERA
RHP Kyle Kendrick (PHI) 7-5, 3.59 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:15 pm ET, FOX):

Braves (career vs. Kendrick):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (0-3, K)
Jason Heyward - RF (3-19, 2 BB, 5 K)
Justin Upton - LF (4-9, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (2-10, 3 BB, 2 K)
Brian McCann - C (8-31, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (11-35, 4 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K)
BJ Upton - CF (1-2)
Chris Johnson - 3B (2-7, RBI, K)
Tim Hudson - P (1-7, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K)

Phillies (career vs. Hudson):
Michael Young - 3B (9-29, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K)
Chase Utley - 2B (15-65, 3 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 5 BB, 10 K)
Jimmy Rollins - SS (18-81, 4 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K)
Ryan Howard - 1B (22-67, 3 2B, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 12 BB, 11 K)
Domonic Brown - LF (2-7, 2B, RBI, BB, K)
Delmon Young - RF (1-1, RBI)
Ben Revere - CF (1-2, BB)
Carlos Ruiz - C (8-36, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K)
Kyle Kendrick - P (2-7, 2 K)

Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick looks to continue his dominance over the Braves on Saturday night in a critical series that'll determine if they will be buyers or sellers as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. Kendrick has not lost a start against the Braves since July 25, 2008, with a 7-1 career mark and a 2.86 ERA in 19 career appearances, including 13 starts. In Kendrick's last start against the Dodgers, he was knocked around for four runs on 10 hits, walked a batter, and struck out two in six innings which resulted in a 6-1 loss. Kendrick also sustained a concussion in that game when Dodgers pitcher Stephen Fife hit him in the head with a pitch, but was cleared to make tonight's start.
Opposing Kendrick is veteran Tim Hudson, who has the chance to break his 10-start winless streak. Hudson had his start pushed back to Saturday due to lingering neck stiffness. Braves opted to swap Hudson for lefty Paul Maholm for Friday night's series opener, giving Hudson two extra days of rest and allowing Maholm to pitch on normal rest.
Hudson won his first road start of the season April 13 in Washington, but has since lost seven straight road decisions. Braves have struggled away from Turner Field as of late, going 4-8 over their last two road trips since June 6 to drop to a lousy three games under .500 heading into their current six-game trip which spans the cities of Philadelphia and Miami. However, they've been good enough at home to preserve the largest first place lead in baseball as of Friday night.
As a starter and reliever, Kyle Kendrick has dueled with Tim Hudson five previous times in his career. Braves hold a 2-1 advantage when both pitchers are the starters and have a 4-1 advantage overall.

Gearrin optioned to Gwinnett, Ayala called up:
After spending the better part of the last two months on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, Braves reliever Luis Ayala rejoined the Major League club before the start of this weekend's series with the Phillies. It is believed that the anxiety disorder was sparked up when Ayala found out he had high blood pressure.
Ayala replaces struggling right-hander Cory Gearrin, who had compiled a 9.90 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .509 on-base percentage in his last 11 appearances. In six appearances with Triple-A Gwinnett, Ayala had allowed six earned runs and five walks while striking out five batters. Before his DL trip, he had made five appearances with the Braves, surrendering two earned runs and three walks after being traded from Baltimore on April 9.

Side note:
Friday's game against the Phillies began a stretch of 26 out of 41 games against NL East opponents for the Braves.
Braves C Gerald Laird and manager Fredi Gonzalez were ejected by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez last night for arguing balls and strikes in the 3rd inning after Laird "struck out" on a pitch high and above the letters. Laird was making his first start behind the plate since June 26 and did not have a single plate appearance on the recent home stand.
Dan Uggla's 27 home runs against the Phillies since 2006 are the most of any player over that span. Uggla went 2-for-4 in last night's game, including a towering three-run homer that got the Braves back into the game in the seventh inning.
Phillies RHP Cliff Lee extended his unbeaten streak to 12 starts Friday in the Phillies' 5-4 win, pitching six scoreless innings before giving up four runs in the seventh.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Game 86 Preview: Atlanta Braves (49-36) at Philadelphia Phillies (41-45)

Pitching Probables:
LHP Paul Maholm (ATL) 9-6, 3.69 ERA
LHP Cliff Lee (PHI) 9-2, 2.59 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:05 pm ET, FS South):

Braves (career vs. Lee):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (1-6, K)
Jason Heyward - RF (2-14, 3B, BB, 2 K)
Justin Upton - LF (4-11, 2B, BB, 3 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (6-22, BB, 8 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (1-11, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (5-25, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB, 11 K)
BJ Upton - CF (8-34, 3 2B, RBI, BB, 13 K)
Gerald Laird - C (2-19, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K)
Paul Maholm - P (N/A)

Phillies (career vs. Maholm):
Michael Young - 3B (3-5, HR, 2 RBI)
Chase Utley - 2B (6-21, 3 2B, HR, RBI, 5 K)
Jimmy Rollins - SS (7-25, 2 2B, 3 BB, 2 K)
Ryan Howard - 1B (5-23, 2B, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K)
Domonic Brown - LF (2-3)
Delmon Young - RF (4-6, 2B, RBI, K)
Ben Revere - CF (0-3)
Humberto Quintero - C (6-17, RBI, K)
Cliff Lee - P (N/A)

Tim Hudson will have to wait another day to snap his 10-start winless streak. Originally scheduled to start Friday's series opener opposite Cliff Lee, Hudson has been bumped back to Saturday while lefty Paul Maholm moves up to get the start. Maholm, who was originally set to oppose Kyle Kendrick on Saturday night, picked up his ninth win of the season after allowing just two runs on eight hits, walk two batters, and struck out three in 6 2/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. The lefty has gone 5-2 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 career starts against the Phillies, including tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings on April 3.
As for Phillies starter Cliff Lee, the southpaw has been dominant all season long, including throwing a two-hitter against the Braves on April 4. He has turned in 11 consecutive quality starts dating back to May 6, while pitching at least seven innings in each of those starts. During that span, Lee is 7-0 with a 2.16 ERA which improved his season totals to 9-2 with a 2.49 ERA.

Terdoslavich's MLB debut:
Braves prospect Joey Terdoslavich, who's Atlanta's 14th-ranked prospect according to, was called for the first time after Jordan Schafer was put on the 15-day disabled list with right ankle contusion. In his first Major League at-bat in last night's 4-3 loss to the Marlins, Terdoslavich struck out on a 2-2 count while pinch-hitting for Jordan Walden in the 8th inning.

Ben Revere finally finding his stride as a Phillie:
After a slow start to the season, Phillies CF Ben Revere has settled into a groove at the plate over the last couple of months. Since May 1, Revere is batting .333 (63-for-189) over 57 games as well as 15 stolen bases and 23 runs scored. Revere hit just .200 in April with five stolen bases and only one extra-base hit.

Side note:
Brandon Beachy traveled with the Braves to Philadelphia this weekend, setting the earliest time for him to begin his rehab assignment back to late next week. Beachy will throw at least one more bullpen session before going out on rehab.
Braves took two of three in the opening series of the season at Turner Field. Cliff Lee received the only win of the series after pitching eight spectacular innings of shutout ball while only allowing two hits and striking out eight.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Game 85 Preview: Miami Marlins (31-52) at Atlanta Braves (49-35)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Henderson Alvarez (MIA) 9-14, 4.85 ERA in '12
RHP Julio Teheran (ATL) 6-4, 3.12 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Marlins (2013 season stats):
Justin Ruggiano - LF (.233/.298/.432 12 HR 31 RBI)
Ed Lucas - 3B (.295/.368/.347 1 HR 6 RBI)
Giancarlo Stanton - RF (.258/.354/.465 8 HR 22 RBI)
Logan Morrison - 1B (.321/.387/.554 2 HR 7 RBI)
Marcell Ozuna - CF (.286/.317/.409 2 HR 27 RBI)
Derek Dietrich - 2B (.214/.279/.405 7 HR 19 RBI)
Adeiny Hechavarria - SS (.223/.263/.308 2 HR 21 RBI)
Jeff Mathis - C (.162/.237/.353 2 HR 16 RBI)
Henderson Alvarez - P (N/A)

Braves (2013 season stats):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (.245/.282/.340 6 HR 26 RBI)
Jason Heyward - RF (.227/.325/.364 6 HR 17 RBI)
Justin Upton - LF (.248/.358/.452 15 HR 38 RBI)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (.313/.386/.474 9 HR 54 RBI)
Brian McCann - C (.262/.357/.503 10 HR 27 RBI)
Dan Uggla - 2B (.202/.324/.403 14 HR 33 RBI)
BJ Upton - CF (.177/.276/.315 8 HR 19 RBI)
Chris Johnson - 3B (.333/.379/.480 5 HR 26 RBI)
Julio Teheran - P (.194/.219/.226 0 HR 1 RBI)

Marlins add another young pitcher to their starting rotation as Henderson Alvarez is set to make his 2013 debut tonight against the Braves. Alvarez joins a rotation that includes the likes of young pitchers such as Nathan Eovaldi, Jose Fernandez, and Jacob Turner. Alvarez, who was acquired from Toronto in the November blockbuster trade that sent Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays, will have the chance to show the Marlins what he can do after spending the entire season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Marlins manager Mike Redmond says Alvarez will be handled the same way he was in his rehab stints and put an 85-pitch limit on the righty.
Squaring off against Alvarez is Braves starter Julio Teheran, who is enjoying a solid rookie campaign in Atlanta's formidable starting rotation. Teheran is 6-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts this season. His 10 quality starts ranks second among MLB rookie pitchers behind Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (13).
Teheran has recorded eight or more strikeouts in four of his past six starts, including double-digit strikeout performances against the Pirates on June 5 and the Diamondbacks last Friday night. Teheran ranks second among Braves starters with 7.65 strikeouts per nine innings and has fanned nearly 11 batters per nine innings in his last six starts. Marlins are a good candidate to put an end to Teheran's torrid strikeout rate, as only two National League teams have struck out fewer times than Miami.

Schafer to disabled list, Terdoslavich called up:
Braves placed OF Jordan Schafer on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right ankle after fouling a ball off it last week in Kansas City. Fredi Gonzalez used him in pinch hit situations in the first two games of the series and it looks as if Schafer's ankle isn't getting any better. With that, Joey Terdoslavich was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett. Terdo has been tearing it up all season long in Gwinnett, hitting .318/.359/.567 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs in 85 games played. Terdoslavich provides some power off the bench and in pinch hit situations with Gattis still disabled by a strained oblique. To accommodate Terdoslavich's spot on the 40-man roster, Braves transferred reliever Jonny Venters to the 60-day disabled list.

Side note:
Marlins 1B/OF Logan Morrison sat out Wednesday's game against the Braves after colliding with Kris Medlen at first base on Tuesday which left him shaken up. He is in the lineup tonight for the Marlins and will hit in the cleanup spot.
Chris Johnson finished Wednesday's game 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the ninth inning, improving his batting average to .355 since May 13 (44-for-124).
Marlins C Jeff Mathis made some history in last night's 6-3 win over the Braves. He became the second player in franchise history to drive in at least two runs in five consecutive games, tying Hanley Ramirez's record mark set back in 2009.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Game 84 Preview: Miami Marlins (30-52) at Atlanta Braves (49-34)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Ricky Nolasco (MIA) 4-8, 3.93 ERA
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 8-3, 2.98 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Marlins (career vs. Minor):
Justin Ruggiano - CF (2-7, 2B, 2 BB, K)
Ed Lucas - 1B (N/A)
Giancarlo Stanton - RF (2-9, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K)
Marcell Ozuna - LF (N/A)
Placido Polanco - 3B (2-4, 2B, BB)
Donovan Solano - 2B (3-9, 2B)
Adeiny Hechavarria - SS (0-2, K)
Jeff Mathis - C (N/A)
Ricky Nolasco - P (0-1, K)

Braves (career vs. Nolasco):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Jason Heyward - RF (7-20, 2 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, 3 BB, 2 K)
Justin Upton - LF (3-11, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (5-22, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 4 K)
Brian McCann - C (19-55, 4 2B, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (5-16, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K)
BJ Upton - CF (2-13, RBI, BB, 5 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (3-9, RBI, 2 K)
Mike Minor - P (0-2, K)

Ricky Nolasco takes the hill tonight against the Braves in what could be his final start as a Marlin. Trade rumors have swirled around Nolasco for weeks. Numerous playoff contenders have contacted the Marlins about acquiring the right-hander. As the trade talks between Miami and potential suitors have intensified, Nolasco has struggled in an otherwise sold contract year.
After recording five quality starts in six outings between May 8 and June 4, Nolasco has a 5.09 ERA and just one quality start in his last four outings.
Opposing Nolasco tonight is lefty Mike Minor, who has arguably been the best Braves starter in a rotation that ranks second in the Majors in ERA with 3.18. Minor leads the rotation with a 2.98 ERA to go along with 95 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings. In his last start against the Royals, Minor pitched six solid innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and struck out four as he received the no decision in a 4-3 Braves extra-inning loss.

Morrison, Stanton leading the way for Marlins:
Marlins have won eight of their last 11 games, including series wins against the Marlins and Padres. Since Logan Morrison returned to the lineup, Miami is 13-8. Giancarlo Stanton rejoined the club a day after Morrison, kick-starting their recent run.
Stanton has played every game since his return and has come out on fire, hitting .303 (23-for-76) with five home runs, 13 RBIs, and 11 runs scored. Other hitters have stepped up along with Morrison and Stanton, including rookie Marcell Ozuna, who had his 10-game hitting streak snapped in last night's 11-3 loss to the Braves and Jeff Mathis, who hit a walk-off grand slam Sunday against the Padres. In that series against San Diego, Mathis went  4-for-10 with the walk-off grand slam and 9 RBIs in the three-game series.

J. Upton beginning to heat up, BJ leaves game w/ injury:
Braves OF Justin Upton has been mired in a slump since he was named the National League Player of the Month in April. His batting average dropped from .298 to a season-low .239 on June 19, and has only hit three home runs since clubbing 12 in his first 26 games. However, Upton has picked up the slack as of late, going 11-for-31 (.355) with five RBIs and seven runs scored in his last eight ballgames.
Justin's older brother, BJ, left last night's game in the second inning with an injury after striking out. Good news is, it was nothing serious as he had muscle spasms in his left forearm. Upton is listed as day-to-day, but is in tonight's lineup and will hit seventh.

Side note:
With Tuesday night's 11-3 win, the Braves are now 11-2 in games following an off day this season. They also notched their 25th come-from-behind victory, after falling behind the Marlins, 2-0, in the first inning.
Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez is set to make his season debut Thursday night against Julio Teheran.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Game 83 Preview: Miami Marlins (30-51) at Atlanta Braves (48-34)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Tom Koehler (MIA) 1-5, 4.78 ERA
RHP Kris Medlen (ATL) 5-7, 3.02 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Marlins (career vs. Medlen)
Juan Pierre - LF (1-5)
Placido Polanco - 3B (5-8, 2B)
Giancarlo Stanton - RF (1-8, HR, RBI, 2 K)
Logan Morrison - 1B (0-1)
Marcell Ozuna - CF (N/A)
Derek Dietrich - 2B (N/A)
Adeiny Hechavarria - SS (0-3)
Rob Brantly - C (1-7, 2B, RBI, BB)
Tom Koehler - P (N/A)

Braves (2013 season stats):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (.240/.278/.331 6 HR 23 RBI)
Jason Heyward - RF (.231/.329/.373 6 HR 17 RBI)
Justin Upton - LF (.245/.335/.447 15 HR 37 RBI)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (.307/.384/.470 9 HR 53 RBI)
Brian McCann - C (.250/.352/.478 9 HR 24 RBI)
Dan Uggla - 2B (.205/.330/.413 14 HR 32 RBI)
BJ Upton - CF (.177/.278/.317 8 HR 19 RBI)
Chris Johnson - 3B (.323/.370/.465 5 HR 23 RBI)
Kris Medlen - P (.120/.185/.240 1 HR 1 RBI)

As the calendar flips from June to July, the Marlins find themselves as healthy as they have been all season and also are in the midst of their hottest stretch of the season.
Miami has won six of its last seven games, but will face a difficult task on Tuesday when the club opens a three-game series against the well-rested, NL East-leading Braves at Turner Field.
Braves off day on Monday marked the third off day in a span of a week. They had an off day last Monday when they split a two-game set with the Royals in Kansas City as well as an off day on Thursday, prior to sweeping the Diamondbacks this past weekend.
Braves will try to win their fourth in a row tonight, and fourth in as many tries against the Marlins this season, when they send Kris Medlen to the hill in the series opener opposite Marlins' starter, Tom Koehler.
Medlen looks to continue his own hot streak, winning four of his last five starts after starting the season 1-6. Despite the 5-7 record, Medlen has limited the opposition to three earned runs or fewer in all but two of his 16 starts in 2013 and sports a solid ERA of 3.02.
Tom Koehler, has pitched better than his 1-5 record indicates as well. Koehler was inserted into the rotation on May 12 and proceeded to go winless in his first six starts despite turning in four quality starts. He picked up his first MLB win on June 20, when he pitched seven innings of impressive ball, allowing only a run on three hits, walked three, and struck out three against the Giants. In his last start against the Twins, Koehler allowed three runs on four hits and also walked four batters while striking out one in just four innings as he took the no decision. Koehler conceded all three runs in the first inning before battling his way through  the next three frames in the eventual 5-3 Marlins win.

Marlins rotation getting healthy:
Marlins manager Mike Redmond announced that starter Henderson Alvarez will return to the rotation on Thursday. Alvarez, who was acquired from the Blue Jays last November as part of the 12-player blockbuster trade, has spent the entire season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Rotation is begging to take shape with Alvarez/s season debut on Thursday as well as the recent return of Nathan Eovaldi. Alvarez will follow Ricky Nolasco, who is expected to pitch Wednesday despite prominent trade rumors, giving the Marlins a six-man rotation.

Injury updates on Schafer, Gattis:
Braves OF Jordan Schafer is still feeling tenderness in his right ankle, after fouling a ball off the ankle last Wednesday in Kansas City. Fredi Gonzalez hopes Schafer will be available soon after Monday's day off.
As for Evan Gattis, the slugger resumed baseball activities, but the Braves have no timetable for his return. Gattis injured the oblique in the seventh inning of the June 17th game against the Mets when he fouled off a pitch and immediately felt discomfort.

Side note:
Kris Medlen is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 16 career games (six starts) against the Marlins.
Braves, winners of each of the last three season series against the Marlins, swept the first and only series between the two clubs earlier this season. Atlanta is 40-17 against Miami since the beginning of the 2010 season.