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.