Greetings! For the first time in a long time, the Braves are coming off of a series in which they were beaten soundly by the Phillies, and that leaves a bit of a sour taste as they open up a 4-game set in Miami. With that said, let’s break down the upcoming match-ups.
Monday, September 9th – 7:10 PM ET – Kris Medlen vs. Henderson Alvarez
Kris Medlen is back. In his last 30 innings, Medlen has allowed only 6 earned runs, has 25 strikeouts, and only 3 walks, and his stuff has looked visibly crisper in recent days. Throw in the fact that he’ll square off with the famously impotent Miami lineup in their giant home ballpark, and this is suddenly a lights-out opportunity. In addition, Miami could be without Giancarlo Stanton early in this series, as he sat out Sunday with an ankle issue, and he’s the only uber-dangerous hitter for the Marlins. Medlen will square off with Henderson Alvarez who, frankly, isn’t very good. He has a very respectable 3.95 ERA in 12 starts this season, but he doesn’t strike anyone out (career 4.45 K/9) and that limits his ceiling of effectiveness. He allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings in his last outing against the Braves on August 11th, and I’d feel good about this lineup putting up that type of production (or better) on Monday night.
Tuesday, September 10th – 7:10 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Tom Koehler
It’s been a relatively long time since we’ve seen Julio Teheran (remember that Kameron Loe experience?!), but he’s back in full force here. In a normal season, the right-hander would likely be the NL Rookie of the Year, but even with the existence of Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, and Yasiel Puig, he’s right there with a 3.01 ERA and a nearly 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Teheran has been a monster throughout the year, and he gets the opportunity to square off against this wretched Miami lineup in a big ballpark (sensing a theme?), so the results should be strong. He’ll be opposed by Tom Koehler, who has a 4.70 ERA in 118.2 innings this season. I could go on and on about Koehler, but he’s a middling right-hander with decent (92-94 MPH) velocity who shouldn’t give the Braves much trouble.
Wednesday, September 11th – 7:10 PM ET – Mike Minor vs. Jose Fernandez
Here’s the big one. This is the best pitching match-up of the series, and frankly, it’s the perfect battle between the number 1 starter for both teams. In addition, it’s doubling as the final start of the 2013 season for Fernandez (he’s being capped for innings), so the eyes of the entire MLB world will be on Miami on Wednesday. Fernandez is one of the best young pitchers in the game, and he has the numbers to prove it. Over 165.2 innings (at 20-21 years old!), Fernandez has a sparkling 2.23 ERA with nearly 10 strikeouts per 9 innings, and under 3 walks per 9 for good measure. He’s been worth over 4 wins according to FanGraphs, and his average fastball velocity has been clocked at 94.7 miles per hour. In short, he’s a monster, and he’s potentially the best asset in an organization that includes Giancarlo Stanton. Fortunately for Atlanta, Fredi Gonzalez is sending Mike Minor to the hill, and he pitched extremely well, despite a loss, in his last start. After a 7-inning, 2-run performance against Philly, Minor now has a 3.06 ERA on the year, and his walk rate is still under 2 per 9 innings. Unlike Fernandez, Minor will be facing a pedestrian lineup, and because of that, he may even have the edge here. Either way, this is the game to watch in this series.
Thursday, September 12th – 12:40 PM ET – Alex Wood vs. Nate Eovaldi
On getaway day, Braves fans have something to focus on in a big way. Alex Wood has been lights-out this year, but in his last 2 starts, the former UGA left-hander has allowed 11 earned runs in 7 innings, and he’s done so by giving up 17 hits and 5 walks in the process. It’s too early to say that Wood is running into any sort of “rookie wall”, but if he struggles here, the jury will be nearing a verdict on that assumption. It’s important for playoff rotation purposes to see what Wood has left in the tank, and this is a big-time evaluation start for the 22-year-old. For the Marlins, Nate Eovaldi absolutely dominated the Braves in his last meeting with them, throwing 8 shutout innings on September 1st. However, he was roughed up by the Nationals on Saturday (9 hits, 5 ER in 3 innings), and he’ll need to locate that high-velocity fastball against the opportunistic Braves.
Even after the minor catastrophe over the weekend, the Braves still lead the Nationals by 12 games and have an ulta-low magic number of 9. If all goes to plan, that number will much lower after this long series ends, and, to be honest, it would be nice to see Atlanta take care of business in a major way in South Florida.
Stay tuned for game-by-game analysis in this space as it happens!