Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (6/3 – 6/5)


Jun 2, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder left fielder Justin Upton (8) and catcher Brian McCann (16) celebrate defeating the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Nationals 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With the Atlanta Braves winning 4 of the past 5 series (with one “split”), times are good in Braves country. On the heels of a 2-of-3 win against Washington, the Braves hold a 6.5 game lead in the NL East as they welcome the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates to town for a three-game set. Let’s glance forward at what to expect.

Monday, June 3rd – 7:10 PM ET – Kris Medlen vs. AJ Burnett

Kris Medlen is 1-6. Of course, this means absolutely nothing as far as his performance, but for the uninitiated, it may seem as if Medlen has been a disaster this season. Granted, he’s been a bit of a disapppointment after his blazing-h0t 2012 finish, but Medlen has posted a very respectable ERA (3.48) and has allowed more than 3 runs in only one start all season. His control is an issue (3.34 walks per 9), but I’m not worried. At any rate, he’ll square off with a red-hot AJ Burnett for Pittsburgh, and Burnett is the type of pitcher who could give Atlanta fits. He has a massive 10.54 K per 9 strikeout rate, and Burnett’s FIP and ERA are both under 3.00. Big-time strikeout pitchers are never fun to face, but his control is also not particularly great, so the Braves would be wise to exercise some plate discipline here. In addition, it’ll be very interesting to see what lineup Fredi Gonzalez chooses to run out in this spot, as he is now without a left-handed third base option, and BJ Upton has shown signs of life.

Tuesday, June 4th – 7:10 PM ET – Mike Minor vs. Jeff Locke

Happy Mike Minor Day! I feel like I say this in every series preview, but Minor has been downright incredible for a full calendar year. His 2013 ERA (2.48) is probably a bit lucky (xFIP of 3.64), but Minor’s control has been very, very good (1.73 BB/9) and that is leading to increased success. He’ll square off with Jeff Locke, and he’s an interesting case study. Frankly, Locke’s ERA (2.25) has been insanely lucky, and his FIP/xFIP are nearly 2 runs higher. That coincides with a less-than-stellar strikeout rate (5.91 K/9) and a bad walk rate (3.66 BB/9) to form a confusing pitcher line. The downside for Atlanta is that this lineup traditionally struggles against no-name lefties, and Locke certainly qualifies. However, having Minor on the mound automatically makes this the most likely Atlanta win of the series, and Locke doesn’t change that.

Wednesday, June 5th – 12:10 PM ET – Julio Teheran vs. Wandy Rodriguez

Getaway day gives us the “business man’s special” of a 12:10 first pitch. Wandy Rodriguez has been made famous by ESPN’s Matthew Berry (a fantasy analyst), but in reality, he’s a pretty solid pitcher, and has been that type of guy for a long time. Wandy has given the Astros and Pirates a sub-4.00 ERA in 6 straight seasons, and while he isn’t scary, he doesn’t take anything off of the table. He’ll be opposed by the suddenly-electric Julio Teheran. For reference, Teheran hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs since April 18th, and his walk-rate is a sparkling 1.86 per 9 on the season. I’ve been really encouraged by Teheran, and he matches up favorably with the Pirates lineup. Keep an eye on the lineup deployment here, as Gerald Laird is likely to make an appearance, and Fredi is prone to giving “off days” for early afternoon first pitches.


It is a bit odd to see the Pirates with a scorching 35-22 record (a half-game better than Atlanta) as they enter town. However, they do have a talented roster, and while they aren’t this good, this is certainly a team that is capable of winning a road series in Atlanta. Stay tuned.