The Atlanta Braves began this lengthy, 10-game road trip with 2 wins (in 3 tries) against Cincinnati, and after a nice, getaway victory, Atlanta heads to San Francisco for 4 games with the defending World Series champion Giants. Let’s take a quick look ahead to what’s on tap.
Thursday, May 9th – 10:15 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Ryan Vogelsong
This is our first look at Julio Teheran since April 29th. With the rain-out against the Mets, Fredi Gonzalez was able to skip the young right-hander and give him some extra rest. It hasn’t been rosy for Teheran this season (5.06 ERA, 1.66 WHIP), but he has allowed 2 runs or fewer in back-to-back starts. The Giants lineup doesn’t pose a giant threat to the opposing pitcher (especially when they’re right-handed), but it also isn’t a walk in the park, either. He’ll be opposed by Ryan Vogelsong, and he is an interesting story. Vogelsong came out of nowhere to post back-to-back quality seasons for the Giants, but this season, his ERA has ballooned to 7.20 over 35 innings, and there are whispers that he’s lost the magic that he was able to generate over the past two years. Series openers are always key, and this one is no different.
The first of three straight tremendous pitching match-ups. Hudson has it going in a big way right now, as he has won back-to-back starts (including #200), and he’s allowed 3 or less runs in 3 straight starts. There is a real debate about who the “best” pitcher for Atlanta is right now, but Hudson is the most predictable, and it would be shocking if the Braves were out of this game while he was still on the mound. The Giants counter with one of their studs in Matt Cain. Cain is coming off of the best year of his career in 2012, where he threw nearly 220 innings of 2.79 ERA baseball, but he’s struggled in a big way early in 2013. His peripherals are very similar, but Cain has allowed a staggering 9 home runs in 42 innings, and with the homer-prone Braves lineup, that could be a nightmare for the Giants.
Two lefties with very different skillsets. Maholm is working with a combination of pinpoint control and a smoke/mirrors repertoire. He’s been absolutely electric this season (outside of a 8-run barrage against Detroit), and this is another lineup that he could take full advantage of in this game. Many people believe that Maholm’s early-season success is a fluke, but with an increased strikeout rate, it’s certainly arguable that this is a new level for the lefty. For the Giants, Madison Bumgarner is an absolute stud. He has 43 strikeouts in 46 innings, and has put up a 2.31 ERA with a sub-1.00 WHIP. In the past, the Braves would have been in deep trouble against a dominant lefty, but with this “new” lineup featuring quality right-handed options, they’ll be able to give Bumgarner a challenge, even in his home ballpark.
In the finale, it will be incredibly interesting to see which Tim Lincecum shows up. The former Cy Young winner was an abomination in 2012, finishing with a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP before “righting the ship” for some quality playoff innings out of the bullpen. Now, he’s stumbled back into mediocrity during 2013, posting an ERA near 5.00 again, and there is a likelihood that he’s lost his previous, dominant level. On the road team’s side, Medlen has fallen short of replicating his 2012 level (the Maddux-like peripherals included), but he’s been a very good pitcher once again. Medlen enters with a 3.25 ERA, and while the walk-rate is a bit higher than a control guy should have it, he seems to be settling in as the season goes on. With his change-up, he’s able to keep lefties (think Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval) off balance, and he should have no problem holding the Giants in check if he has his best stuff.
There many, many more desirable sights to see on a MLB schedule than a 4-game series in San Francisco. With that said, however, the Braves match-up favorably (in my opinion) with the Giants, and there is a real opportunity to take 3 of 4 in this series. At any rate, it should be must-see TV.