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.

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