Greetings! It is “alumni weekend” at Turner Field, so there will be numerous faces from seasons past, and that is always fun for any long-time Braves fan. In addition, Friday night will be Chipper Jones’ jersey retirement and Hall of Fame induction at “the Ted”, and the crowd should be massive. Let’s take a look at what’s on the docket on the field.
Friday, June 28th – 7:30 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Randall Delgado
Julio Teheran vs. Randall Delgado! For those that don’t remember, Delgado was a principle part of the Justin Upton acquisition (along with Martin Prado), and the “Delgado vs. Teheran” discussion dominated part the off-season for Atlanta. Frank Wren reportedly refused to include Teheran in any trade (smartly), and as such, Delgado was jettisoned to Arizona. That decision has worked out well for the Braves, as Teheran has been significantly better than his one-year-older counterpart. On the season, Julio has a 3.32 ERA (3.87 FIP) with a 4.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 89.1 innings, while Delgado failed to make the big league team in Arizona out of Spring Training. Since his call-up, Delgado has actually been decent in 14 innings (4.50 ERA, 13 K’s, 1 BB), but his minor league numbers were dreadful (5.91 ERA, nearly 5.00 BB/9) and the reports on his progress are generally negative. Either way, this is a “highlight” match-up for Braves fans, and an opportunity to see the future on display while evaluating a former prospect. Friday night is about as good as it gets at Turner Field between the pitching match-up and the ceremonies for the legendary Chipper Jones.
Saturday, June 29th – 4:05 PM ET – Tim Hudson vs. Ian Kennedy
On paper, this is a battle of “number one” starters, but neither guy has performed to that level this year. Kennedy has fallen apart to the tune of a 5.21 ERA in 84.2 innings, but he has pitched better lately, allowing only 3 runs over his last 2 starts (12.1 innings). For the Braves, Hudson has been pretty unlucky with a sub-70% strand rate and a FIP (4.10) disparity from ERA (3.66) of nearly half of a run. Positively, he’s allowed 3 runs or less in 5 consecutive starts, and it seems like he’s turned the corner a bit. Kennedy is a great match-up for the Atlanta bats, as he is a guy who will give up home runs (1.49 per 9 this year) with a strikeout rate that is trending downward on a yearly basis. He’s also right-handed and a big name pitcher, which (somehow) translates into a positive against this lineup.
Sunday, June 30th – 1:35 PM ET (TBS) – Paul Maholm vs. Trevor Cahill
In the finale, the Braves get the national TV audience of TBS, and hopefully, the team will be position to grab a series victory for the first time in a while. Paul Maholm toes the rubber for Atlanta, and it’s not a great match-up for him. Maholm isn’t a strikeout guy by any means and the D-Backs really “grind” (lol) through at-bats under Kirk Gibson. He’s been flat-out average since his incredibly hot start, but Maholm usually gives the bats the chance to produce a victory, and I’d expect that to continue here. The Braves will face off with Trevor Cahill, and the former A’s prospect has been up and down this season. He was dreadful in two of his last three full outings (6 ER and 8 ER respectively), but even with those two blow-ups, his season ERA is only 4.29. His peripherals indicate he’s gotten a bit unlucky (3.90 xFIP, 3.94 FIP), but Cahill isn’t the type of pitcher that will blow the Atlanta lineup away with “stuff” and strikeouts. The one X-factor for Cahill is his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (less than 0.75 HR per 9 over the last 2 seasons), and that isn’t pretty for the power-heavy Braves.
After a disappointing split in KC, the Braves come home to full crowds and the fanfare of alumni weekend. With a blazing 25-11 home record, it’s safe to assume that Atlanta is the “favorite” in the series, and frankly, the Braves are the team with the better talent. It’s time to put a stamp on a dominant series, and this may be the one. Stay tuned.