On the heels of the 5-game letdown against the Mets, the Braves still hold a 6-game lead over the Washington Nationals. Over the weekend, the Braves head to the great state of Wisconsin to take on the Milwaukee Brewers, and here is what you can expect.
Friday, June 21st – 8:10 PM ET – Wily Peralta vs. Julio Teheran
Remember when Julio Teheran was struggling early in the season? Those days seem like a distant memory, as Teheran has been electric for the past few weeks. In his last start (on Sunday against San Francisco), Teheran threw 6 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts, and in the process, the youngster lowered his ERA to a now-stellar 3.36. Even more encouraging is that his strikeout rate has risen to 7.16 per 9, which has also coincided with a dip in walk rate to 1.73 BB/9. Translation? Julio Teheran is a stud. I can only imagine how scary he’ll be if he can get his change-up going, but for now, he’s a top-end option even without it. On the opposite side, Wily Peralta has had a rough year for Milwaukee. His ERA is over 6.00 for the year, and the high strikeout potential that he flashed in the minors has disappeared to the tune of only 5.06 K/9 this season. Throw in the fact that he’s a right-hander, and the Braves should be in good position to put up some runs.
Saturday, June 22nd – 4:10 PM ET – Tom Gorzelanny vs. Tim Hudson
Ryan Braun is injured. That is significant for all of the Braves pitchers, but even more so for a guy like Tim Hudson. Huddy’s stuff isn’t what it used to be, and with Braun on the DL, this Brewers lineup is eminently beatable. That’s great news for Hudson, who could use some additional help to his 4.17 ERA, and I’d expect him to continue to build on his recent success. In his last 4 starts, Hudson has thrown 28.2 innings while allowing just 5 earned runs, and I’ve declared him “back” on numerous platforms. Welcome back, Tim. Milwaukee will trot out journeyman pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, and that doesn’t exactly inspire fear in opposing offenses. “Big Gorzy” (as ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Podcast has named him) is a career 4.35 ERA pitcher, but he’s actually been good out of the bullpen over the past two seasons. This will be only his 2nd start of the year for Milwaukee, which is good news for Atlanta, and his stuff isn’t of the high-end variety. However, he does have a 2.60 ERA in 45+ innings against Atlanta in his career, and while that doesn’t particularly matter for this discussion, it’s interesting to note.
Sunday, June 23rd – 2:10 PM ET – Alfredo Figaro vs. Paul Maholm
Frankly, I took a double-take when I saw the name of the Brewers starter for Sunday. Figaro is a guy I knew nothing about, but the information isn’t too frightening for Braves fans. He has only 8 career starts (33 appearances) in the Majors, and he’s posted a 4.90 ERA with a 4.84 FIP. This will be his 5th start of the year for the injury-ravaged Brewers, but he’s allowed a staggering 1.76 home runs per 9 innings, and the powerful Braves could take advantage of him in Miller Park. For the Braves, Paul Maholm took the loss in his last start against the Mets, but it was an encouraging outing, and he’s been solid. Maholm is nothing special, but he’s certainly consistent, and this is, without question, a pitching advantage for the Braves. With the “Sunday lineup” likely to be deployed, the Braves may not tear up the scoreboard, but this is a good spot.
With the aforementioned 6-game lead over Washington, it may seem like the Braves are safely tucked away in 1st place. However, I am of the opinion that a run will come from Washington, and it would be in the Braves interest to take care of business against a less-than-stellar, 29-42 Milwaukee Brewers. Stay tuned.