Welcome home, Braves. The 10-game road trip is over, and the stage is set for a quality, 6-game homestand. Let’s take a look at what to expect when the Dodgers arrive.
Friday, May 17th – 7:30 PM ET – Paul Maholm vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Speaking of “welcome back”, Braves fans will see a familiar face when the club takes the field on Friday night, as Jason Heyward is expected to return from the disabled list as he is fully recovered from an emergency appendectomy. Heyward struggled mightily before going down with the unexpected injury (hitting with a .121/.261/.259 slash line), but his presence in the lineup is a huge one, and he may be the best defensive right-fielder in all of baseball. Paul Maholm takes the mound for Atlanta, and he has faltered a bit since his scorching start. After three straight scoreless outings to start the year, he’s only had one “plus” start (an 8-inning, 2-run outing against Washington) and he gave up 6 runs in 4.1 innings against the Giants on Saturday. He’ll be opposed by Ryu, a Dodgers “rookie” (he’s 26 years old from Korea) who has been very good in his MLB debut season. Ryu is sporting a 3.40 ERA in 50.1 innings and he’s left-handedness is an immediate red flag against the Braves lineup. Fortunately for the Braves, this is the only one of LA’s top-3 pitchers that is featured in the series, and at worst, the pitching match-up is a push.
Will the real Kris Medlen please stand up? He walked 5 in just 5.1 innings in his last start, and the pinpoint control that keyed his late-season dominance in 2012 has waned a bit. He’s still been fairly solid (3.40 ERA) despite his misleading 1-5 record, but it would be big for the Braves to get Medlen righted. Capuano is yet another lefty for the Braves to take aim at, but he has struggled with injury and performance in 2013. He enters with a 6.60 ERA (in only 15 innings) and there’s some concern about whether he’s fully healthy. Medlen’s ability to get lefties out will help him with righty-mashers Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez, but the bats will need to help him out against the wily Capuano.
Mike Minor Day! It’s becoming a Braves holiday every time Minor takes the hill, and he’s certainly been the staff ace this season. He leads the Braves in ERA at 2.75 and even in a start without his best stuff on Monday, he gritted through 6.2 innings and allowed only 1 run. Minor seems to have found the balance needed to go deep into games, and outside of a rough outing in Detroit, he’s been lights-out. He’ll square off with Matt Magill, and when I read that name, my first reaction was, “who?”. This will be only Magill’s 4th-career start, and the Dodgers organization had no designs about him having a spot in the rotation when the season opened. However, injuries to Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley combined with DL stints from Capuano and Greinke have led to Magill (and his 6.92 ERA) on the mound. This is easily the biggest edge “on paper” for Atlanta in the three-game set, and it would be a significant disappointment to drop this game.
The Dodgers enter this series with a 17-22 record, but this roster is simply better than that. In the same breath, Atlanta manages to miss both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the series, and as a result, the Braves are a pretty large favorite to take at least 2 games in the series. It is time to right the ship with some home-cooking, and I’d expect the Braves to make a big statement over the weekend.