Friday, April 4, 2014

Game 4 Preview: Atlanta Braves (2-1) at Washington Nationals (3-0)

First Pitch: 1:05 pm ET (FS South)

Pitching Probables:

David Hale (ATL) 1-0, 0.82 ERA in '13
Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) 19-9, 3.25 ERA in '13

Braves starting lineup (career vs. Zimmermann)
Jason Heyward - RF (3-11, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB, 2 K)
BJ Upton - CF (2-7, 2B, 2 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (2-11, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (2-7, 2B)
Justin Upton - LF (5-12, BB, 3 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (2-17, 2B, 2 BB, 4 K)
Evan Gattis - C (0-3)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (1-5)
David Hale - P (N/A)

Nationals starting lineup ('13 season stats)
Denard Span - CF (.279/.327/.380 4 HR 47 RBI)
Anthony Rendon - 2B (.265/.329/.396 7 HR 35 RBI)
Jayson Werth - RF (.318/.398/.532 25 HR 82 RBI)
Adam LaRoche - 1B (.237/.332/.403 20 HR 62 RBI)
Ryan Zimmerman - 3B (.275/.344/.465 26 HR 79 RBI)
Bryce Harper - LF (.274/.368/.486 20 HR 58 RBI)
Ian Desmond - SS (.280/.331/.453 20 HR 80 RBI)
Jose Lobaton - C (.249/.320/.394 7 HR 32 RBI)
Jordan Zimmermann - P (.123/.134/.138 0 HR 2 RBI)

The 2014 season may be less than a week old, but Braves rookie RHP David Hale's third career big league start comes in an important game this afternoon against the division rival Nationals at Nationals Park. Braves beat the Nats in all five matchups last April, which gave the Braves the lead in the NL East for good. Despite running away with the division last season, Braves once again come in as the underdog in this year's race.

Braves are relying on the likes of Hale and journeyman Aaron Harang to keep the rotation afloat until Mike Minor, Ervin Santana, and Gavin Floyd join the rotation later this month.

Nationals RHP Tanner Roark was originally slated to start today's game, but was bumped up after Jordan Zimmermann was skipped due to flu-like symptoms. On short notice, Roark allowed just two runs in six innings against the Mets on Thursday.

Harper hitting lower in the order:
Nationals LF Bryce Harper hit sixth in the order on Wednesday after spending most of last season in one of the top four spots in the lineup. Moving Harper lower in the order takes the pressure off of the star outfielder and possibly create more RBI situations for him with Werth and Zimmerman hitting in front of him. Harper did hit second in the Nats order in yesterday's game and went 1-for-5 with a run scored in the 8-2 win over the Mets.

Kimbrel ties Garber:
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 141st career save in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Brewers to tie Gene Garber for second place in franchise history. Kimbrel is just 13 saves away from tying John Smoltz's record of 154 saves.

Braves claimed RHP Pedro Beato off waivers from the Reds following Wednesday's game. In a corresponding move, the Braves optioned reliever Ryan Buchter to Triple-A Gwinnett. In 81 career appearances, Beato owns a 4.55 ERA with the Red Sox and Mets.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Braves' 1-0 win against the Brewers on Wednesday was their first 1-0 win in Milwaukee since they were the Milwaukee Braves in 1964.

Nats C Jose Lobaton will take over the catching duties from Wilson Ramos, who was placed on the 15-day DL after breaking a bone in his left hand.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Game 3 Preview: Atlanta Braves (1-1) at Milwaukee Brewers (1-1)

First Pitch: 1:10 pm ET (SportSouth/MLB Network)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Aaron Harang (ATL) 5-12, 5.40 ERA in '13
RHP Matt Garza (MIL) 10-6, 3.88 ERA in '13

Braves starting lineup (career vs. Garza):
Jason Heyward - RF (1-6, HR, 3 RBI, 2 K)
BJ Upton - CF (N/A)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (4-8, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (4-6, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, K)
Justin Upton - LF (2-10, 2B, RBI, 4 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-15, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K)
Gerald Laird - C (3-14, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (0-1, BB)
Aaron Harang - P (N/A)

Brewers starting lineup (career vs. Harang):
Carlos Gomez - CF (2-4, HR, RBI, K)
Logan Schafer - LF (0-2)
Ryan Braun - RF (7-29, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K)
Aramis Ramirez - 3B (21-63, 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K)
Jonathan Lucroy - C (0-7, BB, 2 K)
Scooter Gennett - 2B (1-3, K)
Jeff Bianchi - SS (N/A)
Lyle Overbay - 1B (11-24, 5 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 3 K)
Matt Garza - P (N/A)

Brewers signed Matt Garza over the winter to the richest deal in franchise history, inking the inconsistent right-hander to a 4-year $50 million contract. Garza went 10-6 in an injury-plagued season between the Cubs and Rangers in 2013. Braves will counter with veteran Aaron Harang, who signed with the club on March 24, one day after the Indians released him. Harang joined Atlanta after they parted ways with Freddy Garcia. Harang has bounced around in the past calendar year, from being traded from the Dodgers to the Rockies to being designated for assignment by Colorado and eventually traded to the Mariners. Both Garza and Harang look to rebound from rough outings in their final spring training starts.

Harang made one spring training start for the Braves and gave up 6 earned runs on 8 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Tigers last Thursday. Garza allowed four runs, two of which were earned, on six hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Royals last Friday.

Heyward gets Braves on the board for first time in '14:
Braves RF Jason Heyward plated the club's first 2 runs of the season with a 2-run shot in the top of the 5th, which gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. Heyward's homer snapped a 13 inning scoreless streak to begin the season and also halted a skid of 22 consecutive scoreless innings against the Brewers.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 140th save as a Brave in Tuesday night's 5-2 win over the Brewers. Kimbrel is one save away from tying Gene Garber for the second-most saves in Braves franchise history and is 14 saves away from tying John Smoltz's franchise record of 154.

Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez killed the Braves for 2 more hits in 4 plate appearances last night, raising his lifetime average against the Braves to .378 (111-for-294).

Braves 1B Freddie Freeman homered twice in Tuesday's win for his 5th career multi-homer game.

Matt Garza has struggled against the Braves in his career, posting a 6.43 ERA. Aaron Harang owns a 1.50 ERA against the Brewers in his career.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Game 1 Preview: Atlanta Braves at Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching probables:

RHP Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA in '13)
RHP Yovani Gallardo (12-10, 4.18 ERA in '13)

Braves starting lineup (career vs. Gallardo):
Jason Heyward - RF (1-9, HR, RBI, 3 BB, 3 K)
BJ Upton - CF (N/A)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (2-5, 2 BB)
Chris Johnson - 3B (2-11, BB, 4 K)
Justin Upton - LF (6-20, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 4 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-18, BB, 3 K)
Evan Gattis - C (N/A)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Julio Teheran - P (N/A)

Brewers starting lineup (career vs. Teheran):
Carlos Gomez - CF (0-2, 2 K)
Jean Segura - SS (3-3, HR, RBI)
Ryan Braun - RF (N/A)
Aramis Ramirez - 3B (0-2, RBI)
Jonathan Lucroy - C (N/A)
Khris Davis - LF (N/A)
Lyle Overbay - 1B (N/A)
Scooter Gennett - 2B (1-3)
Yovani Gallardo - P (N/A)

It's Opening Day. Baseball's New Year begins this afternoon as the Brewers host the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves. Not much went right for the Brewers in 2013, from injuries and suspension to superstar Ryan Braun, to a fourth-place finish in th competitive NL Central. For the Braves, 2013 also proved to end on a sour note, again losing in the NLDS.

Brewers hand the ball to Yovani Gallardo, his fifth Opening Day, while the Braves will give their ace RHP Julio Teheran his first of many Opening Day starts.

Today also marks the return of Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, whose season ended early due to a 65-game PED suspension. Braun looks to help the Brewers bounce back from a disappointing 74-88 record last season, the team's worst since 2004. Expect the Brew Crew to be a darkhorse in the loaded NL Central in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Braves are coming off their best regular season finish since 2004. After finishing the season 96-66, and winning the NL East for the first time since 2005, Atlanta saw their season come to an abrupt end at the hands of the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Braves were on the verge of forcing a decisive game 5 in Atlanta until David Carpenter hung a slider over the plate to Juan Uribe, who deposited the pitch into the Dodgers bullpen, all while Craig Kimbrel and Eddie Perez looked on in the Braves 'pen.

Atlanta returns almost the same lineup, minus Brian McCann, who departed for the Yankees in the off season, in its quest to win their first World Series since 1995. But the biggest concerns for the Braves will be their health, as they lost both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending Tommy John surgeries during spring training. Mike Minor and newly signed free agent Ervin Santana will not be ready to join the Braves rotation until mid to late April.

Braves lineup:
Fredi Gonzalez hinted over the last couple of days that Chris Johnson could be the club's cleanup hitter. It is almost set in stone that Jason Heyward, BJ Upton, and Freddie Freeman will bat 1, 2, 3 in the lineup, respectively. If Johnson is hitting 4th in the lineup, expect Justin Upton in the 5th spot. Evan Gattis and Dan Uggla may be interchangeable at 6th and 7th, while Simmons rounds out the order hitting 8th.

Brewers SS Jean Segura's status for Opening Day is still uncertain as he continues to battle with a sore right shoulder injury. Segura or Brewers manager Ron Roenicke considers the injury as a serious matter, the club wants to take precaution to avoid further injury.

Braves are just 1-8 in their last 9 games at Miller Park, dating back to the 2011 season.

Braves have won 6 of their last 8 season openers, while the Brewers have lost 4 of their last 5 openers.