May 11, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton (8) adjusts his batting gloves in the on deck circle against the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning at AT
On the heels of a three-game slide in San Francisco, the Braves will look to right the ship against a feisty Arizona team this week. Let’s glance ahead at what’s to come in during the three-game, road trip-ending series.
Monday, May 13th – 9:40 PM ET – Mike Minor vs. Wade Miley
Justin Upton’s revenge! The Braves left-fielder returns to the place where he spent his entire career prior to this season, and he has the welcome sight of a left-handed pitcher on the mound for Arizona. Upton has slowed down a bit since his scorching start, but he is still sporting a .990 OPS (including a ludicrous .608 slugging) and Wade Miley will be in for a battle. Speaking of Miley, the D-Backs left-hander enters Monday night with a sub-3.00 ERA (2.97) and a 3-1 record on the young season. He came in 2nd (to Bryce Harper) in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, and he’s been a breath of fresh air for an Arizona pitching staff that has struggled in recent years. On the bump for Atlanta is Mike Minor, and he’s been the best pitcher on the staff this season. He has an ERA in the low-2.00’s since the middle of last season, and his 2.96 mark through 45.2 innings this year indicates that last year’s performance wasn’t a fluke. It’s a national holiday when Minor pitches (at least for Ben Duronio), and the Braves will need a streak-stopping performance from their stud lefty.
Tuesday, May 14th – 9:40 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Patrick Corbin
The sight of Patrick Corbin on the mound for the opposition doesn’t immediately strike fear in the hearts of Braves fans… but maybe it should. Corbin has been absolutely lights-out this season (1.75 ERA in 46.1 innings) and he’s the type of crafty left-hander that has caused major issues in the past. Fortunately for Atlanta, this isn’t the same type of lineup as in previous seasons, and there are lefty-mashers in a couple of key positions. In addition, Corbin’s peripherals (87.4% left-on-base percentage, xFIP of 3.76) suggest he’s been a little bit lucky this year, and Tuesday would be an opportunity to bring him back to normalcy. For Atlanta, Julio Teheran has won his last 2 decisions, but more importantly, his pitched pretty effectively in recent days. He’s posted three straight starts with 3 runs or fewer, and he’s lowered his peripheral numbers to a semi-manageable place. He still isn’t striking anyone out (5.86 per 9 this season), but if he can begin to use his off-speed repertoire effectively, there’s a high ceiling still. This could be the “swing” game in the series.
Wednesday, May 15th – 3:40 PM ET – Tim Hudson vs. Ian Kennedy
In the finisher, the “number one starters” square off for both teams. Tim Hudson got knocked around in a big way in his last outing (an 8-2 drubbing against the Giants), allowing 6 earned runs in just 3.2 innings. With that said, Hudson didn’t pitch poorly in the game, and it looked to be an instance of “bad luck” for a contact pitcher. Chase Field is the type of park that actually suits Hudson’s ground-ball game in a big way, and it’ll be important for him to get back on the rails after some suspect work lately. Kennedy has struggled mightily in the early going this season after three consecutive quality years for Arizona. His strikeout rate this season is at a basement-level of 6.62 per 9, but the Braves can (unfortunately) be a great recipe to cure strikeout woes for the opposition, and Kennedy has a pedigree of success that indicates that he’s a better pitcher than he’s shown. This is also a 12:40 local time “getaway” start, and crazy things tend to happen under the bright light of the sun.
With the national focus sure to be on the return of Justin Upton to Arizona for the first time, the much more important story will be how the Braves respond to the adversity of a three-game skid. This is a very winnable series for Atlanta, and after a 3-4 start to the trip, the Braves need to take 2 of 3 to finish with a .500 (5-5) mark. Stay tuned.