The Braves have now clinched the NL East…… what now? Well, it’s time to wrap up home field advantage through the National League playoffs. The Braves have all 7 of their games at home this week and we start off with the Braun-less Milwaukee Brewers. I love the old Brewers logo in the shape of a glove. Probably one of my favorite MLB logos ever, and I wish they would bring that one back. Here are the match-ups for this 3-game series:
Monday, September 23rd (Game 1) – 7:10 PM ET – Marco Estrada (6-4) 4.26 ERA vs. Mike Minor (13-7) 3.19 ERA
Hopefully, Mike Minor can start showing that he is the ace of this staff again. He has been very inconsistent lately including his last start against Washington when he allowed 3 runs in the first inning but then shut the Nats out and was nearly unhittable over the next 5 innings. His biggest problem lately seems to be that he temporarily loses some command and starts walking people. When he keeps his walks down he is much more successful, but then again isn’t that true for most if not all pitchers? The Braves really need Minor to get back to the way he was pitching earlier this season with the playoffs around the corner. Right now, Minor figures to be in the 2nd starter slot for the October rotation. Marco Estrada has been really good for the Brew Crew ever since he has come back from his 2 month stint on the disabled list with hamstring issues. He is sporting a 2.62 ERA in seven starts since coming off the DL. Hopefully the Braves won’t throw up, no pun intended, a stinker of a game after celebrating their NL East title yesterday.
Tuesday, September 24th (Game 2) – 7:10 PM ET – Tyler Thornburg (3-1) 1.96 ERA vs. Freddy Garcia (1-2) 1.31 ERA
Freddy Garcia has been the man so far with the Braves. I’ll be the first to admit that I hated the move at the time, not because we gave up anything of value, but because I was afraid that Fredi Gonzalez might use him in an important situation. Garcia has made 2 starts for the Braves to give their young starters some rest down the stretch. He has thrown 13 innings in his 2 starts and has only given up 2 runs total. Pretty amazing considering Garcia wasn’t even good in AAA this season, much less with the Orioles. Tyler Thornburg has made 6 starts for the Brewers this season. Thornburg has 6 quality starts, going exactly 6 innings in all of them. He has not allowed more than 2 runs in any of those 6 starts. Thornburg has compiled a 1.25 ERA as a starter. Hopefully the Braves will not allow Thornburg to reach his lucky 7s.
Wednesday, September 25th (Game 3) – 7:10 PM ET – Kyle Loshe (10-10) 3.51 ERA vs. Paul Maholm (10-10) 4.44 ERA
It’s the Battle of the Mediocre 10-10 Pitchers! Each starter is 10-10, who will leave with their 11th win and be just a bit less mediocre than their counterpart? Will it be the much traveled veteran Kyle Lohse? The same pitcher that defeated the Braves in the Wild Card Playoff game for the Cardinals last season. I sure hope the Braves pay him back for that one. Paul Maholm COULD be making his last start in a Braves uniform, but that all depends on where he ends up for the playoffs. He could possibly be their 4th starter, be shipped to the pen as a long man or a lefty specialist, or possibly left off the roster completely. He has been fair lately, not nearly what he was back at the beginning of the season. A good start here could possibly solidify that #4 spot or a really bad showing could be the end of Maholm as a Brave.
The Braves lost 2 of the 3 games up in Milwaukee back in June. Many might remember the back to back 2-0 shutout losses the Braves suffered. I have chosen to forget them. Hopefully, the team can at least win 2 of 3 here to even up the season series and move just a bit closer to getting home field advantage in the playoffs. It will also be nice to see how much Jason Heyward plays in this series. Will he play all three games? Will they give him one of the games off? Will he only play half-games? Either way, its nice to have him back in the fold for the Braves.