After a perfect homestand that featured some of the most exciting regular season baseball imaginable, the Braves hit the road in search of a series win in New York. Let’s examine what to expect in this weekend’s series with the Mets.
Friday, May 24th – 7:10 PM ET – Jeremy Hefner vs. Kris Medlen
Kris Medlen is a good pitcher. For all of the fuss about the “slow start” from Medlen, he has produced a 3.02 ERA over his first nine starts, and while his 1-5 record is lackluster (and means nothing FYI), he’s been solid at worst. The big concern for Medlen this season is his extremely mortal control this season, as he’s posted a walk-rate of 3.49 per 9 innings. As a result of this (and his less-than-stellar 6.04 K/9), his peripherals have slipped noticeably, but it is an extremely small sample size (56.2 innings), and his career walk-rate of 2.32 per 9 indicates that improvement is on the way. Medlen was very good in his last start (7 IP, 0 ER, 3 BB), and I’d expect him to be very comfortable against an unimpressive Mets lineup. He’ll be opposed by Jeremy Hefner, and frankly, he’s not a very good pitcher. Hefner enters with a 5.06 career ERA (with a 5.00 in 2013), and he’s allowed a .909 OPS to opposing left-handed hitters. The Braves are blessed with righty-mashers in Heyward, McCann, and Freeman, and they will be exceedingly comfortable on Friday night. Advantage, Braves.
Saturday, May 25th – 7:15 PM ET – Dillon Gee vs. Mike Minor
Happy Mike Minor Day! The Braves lefty threw another stellar outing last week against the Dodgers, tossing 6 innings of 2-run ball with 9 strikeouts, and he’s probably the Braves “safest” starter at the moment. Minor’s sub-1.00 WHIP for the season will probably increase, but his ultra-low walk-rate could be a sign of improvement in his overall control. For the Mets, David Wright and company will have a significant challenge in Minor, and Wright is the only frightening bat in the lineup, especially from the right-handed batter’s box. Dillon Gee takes the hill for the Mets on Saturday, and he’s been a bit of a disaster in the early going for New York. Gee has a 6.04 ERA through 9 starts, and his home run rate is a ghastly 1.41 per 9 innings. His low strikeout rate combined with gopher ball potential is the absolute nightmare for a starter facing the Braves boom-or-bust lineup, and this is probably the best pitching duel of the weekend in terms of Atlanta’s advantage.
Sunday, May 26th – 8:00 PM ET – Shaun Marcum vs. Julio Teheran
The 8:00 pm first pitch time indicates that a nationally televised (ESPN) audience will get to view this game, and they’ll be in for an interesting match-up. It isn’t clear whether the Mets’ Shaun Marcum is still a quality pitcher. Marcum has a career ERA 3.84 (which is solid), but he has been injury-prone for years and the wheels appear to be coming off permanently. He was injured at the beginning of 2013, but in his first five starts, his ERA has ballooned to 6.59 and his stuff appears to have taken a severe step back. I wouldn’t pour dirt on Marcum just yet, but he doesn’t have elite strikeout potential (much like Gee) and that’s a bad recipe. Julio Teheran is coming off of the best start of his career, but also the start in which he threw the most pitches. It will be very interesting to see if he has the same “zip” on the ball on Sunday night.
After the wild success during this week’s homestand, another road trip probably isn’t the most appetizing option. However, the Mets are an awful 17-27 team with nothing outside of David Wright that frightens you offensively. In addition, the Braves will miss New York’s #1 and #2 starters in Matt Harvey and Jon Niese, and the stars are aligned for a successful series for Atlanta. Stay tuned as we recap the games day-by-day.