Greetings! After a fantastic sweep of the Diamondbacks and as always-needed off day, the Braves welcome the lowly Miami Marlins to town for a three-game set at Turner Field. Let’s take a look at what’s on deck.
Tuesday, July 2nd – 7:10 PM ET – Kris Medlen vs. Tom Koehler
Okay, I’ll admit it. I had to do some research on Tom Koehler. The verdict was about what you would expect, as Koehler has a career ERA of 4.89 with a FIP of 4.63 in 77.1 big-league innings. He’s not a strikeout pitcher (and hasn’t been at any level), and righties who can’t strike people out is probably the best possible match-up for this Braves lineup. Guys like Jason Heyward (who was red-hot in June with an .865 OPS) could tee off on the “meh” stuff from the Marlins right-hander. Koehler will be opposed by Kris Medlen, who has been absolutely tremendous recently. In June, Medlen threw 33.2 innings with a 2.14 ERA, walked exactly two batters, and had a solid K-rate of 7.49 per 9. The return of his elite control has non-coincidentally brought about the return of elite production, and with the semi-terrible Marlins lineup, Medlen should be in for another nice day at the office. It’s tough to say that the Braves aren’t the favorite every team these two teams step on the field, but they certainly are here in terms of pitching match-up.
Wednesday, July 3rd – 7:10 PM ET – Mike Minor vs. Ricky Nolasco
This is the first time all season where I will write a series preview in fear that one of the opposition’s starters will be traded before they make their start. Nolasco is probably the #1 trade candidate in all of baseball right now, as the Marlins are in the tank and he’s actually had a good season. In 109 innings, Nolasco has a sub-4.00 ERA (3.93) and a 3.32 K/BB ratio this year, which represent his best numbers since a stellar 2008 campaign. He’s always been prone to huge blow-ups (think 8 earned runs in 3 innings, etc.), but the stuff is quality when he has it going, and he’s the one member of the Miami rotation that inspires any level of fear from the opposition. Mike Minor gets the ball for Atlanta, and suddenly, the Cy Young-level buzz has tempered quite a bit for the lefty. He hasn’t been “bad” by any stretch, but his 4.20 ERA in June raised his season-long ERA to a much more human 2.98, and the regression wheel is spinning. I firmly believe that Minor is a high-level pitcher and he’ll continue to be that, but he likely isn’t as good as he was in April/May. Alas, the Marlins are the perfect team to face when you are “struggling”, and Minor could get back to top form here.
Thursday, July 4th – 7:10 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Henderson Alvarez
The final game of the series brings about a return of the Julio Teheran show. Teheran was incredible in his last start (6 IP, 10 K, 0 ER), and the future seems to be arriving before our eyes. He’ll need to keep the ball in the ballpark against guys like Giancarlo Stanton, but for the most part, Teheran’s stuff should play here, and the offense should carry the day as well. The reason for the offensive optimism is, again, the opponent, as Henderson Alvarez is scheduled to come off of the 60-day DL to make his season debut on Thursday. Alvarez was the one pitcher who didn’t get hurt last season for Toronto, but he managed only a 0.1 WAR season thanks to a 4.85 ERA and the righty has a career strikeout rate of only 4.27 K/9 in the majors. Translation? He’s extremely hittable, and this is probably the most lopsided pitching match-up of the series when you factor in his long lay-off and potential rust.
On the heels of the decisive sweep over Arizona, things look very, very good as the Marlins arrive in town. After a Washington win on Monday, the division lead is 6 games, but with the eminently beatable Marlins on the docket, it is reasonable to expect 2+ wins in this series, and the offense should be able to keep things going. Stay tuned as we cover each game in-depth with our new team of Braves writers on the case.