Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers (6/6 – 6/9)


Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves enter the weekend series with the Dodgers having won 5 consecutive games in route to a series win against the Nationals and a dominant sweep of the previously red-hot Pirates. Let’s take a look at what to expect when the team sets foot on the west coast.

Thursday, June 6th – 10:10 PM ET – Zack Greinke vs. Tim Hudson

Is Tim Hudson “back”? That will be the main theme when the series opens on Thursday night, as Hudson is coming off of his best start of the season. The veteran right-hander tossed 7.1 innings on Saturday, allowing only 3 hits and 1 unearned run in a win over the Nationals, but in the process, only lowered his ERA to 4.80 on the season. There is a likelihood that Hudson is significantly better than that based on his track record and the fact that his xFIP is 3.75, but he certainly hasn’t looked like the “old” Huddy in 2013. I think a face-off against a struggling LA lineup in a pitcher-friendly park could do wonders for him. He’ll be opposed by LA’s #2 starter in Zack Greinke. Greinke has only 6 starts this season due to injury, and he’s failed to surpass 5.1 innings since returning from the disabled list, so he isn’t exactly himself at this stage. On paper, this pitching match-up favors LA, but with Greinke’s current state and Hudson turning the corner, it may be closer than you would believe.

Friday, June 7th – 10:10 PM ET – Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Paul Maholm  

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been a revelation for the Dodgers this year. He has a 2.89 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 11 starts, and without his stellar performance, LA would be a lot worse than their already-subpar 25-33 record. The Braves have been better against left-handers this season, but it’s still the side they inexplicably struggle against, and Ryu fits the bill as a deception-reliant pitcher. For the Braves, Paul Maholm is who we thought he would be. For reference, Maholm’s ERA in the past three years looks like this: 3.66 in 2011 with Pittsburgh, 3.67 in 2012 with Chicago and Atlanta, and 3.68 in 2013. Sensing a trend? He is quite solid, but it does seem that the early-season barrage of dominance was a bit of an aberration. Fortunately, lefties have eaten up the Dodgers this season (look no further than Andre Ethier) and the ballpark is favorable.

Saturday, June 8th – 10:10 PM ET – Stephen Fife vs. Kris Medlen

Who is Stephen Fife? That’s the question that many Braves fans will be asking, and the answer is that he’ll be making only his 3rd start of the season. Entering 2013, the Dodgers had legendary pitching depth, but with injuries/ineffectiveness hitting Chad Billingsley and Chris Capuano, LA has turned to Fife for help. The Braves should potentially tee-off on the young right-hander as his minor league/major league numbers are thoroughly mediocre, and all reports are that his stuff is average at best. Kris Medlen was lights-out on Monday, allowing only 7 hits, 1 unearned run, and 0 walks in route to a win, and it looks as if his control is coming back. If that sustains here, it’s a big advantage for Atlanta.

Sunday, June 9th – 4:10 PM ET – Ted Lilly vs. Mike Minor

The finale of the series doubles as Mike Minor Day. Minor “struggled” to a no-decision on Tuesday, but even without his best stuff, the lefty still allowed only 4 runs (2 earned) over 6 innings and posted 6 K’s in his stint. He’ll square off against an already-struggling Dodgers lineup that is without Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, and that is great news for Minor and company. Ted Lilly was a high-level option at one point, but at age 37, those days are likely gone. He has a 5.09 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 5 starts this year and whether it’s injury or plain ineffectiveness, the Braves shouldn’t worry. Of all days, this is the game where Fredi can get the most “creative” as it is a typical Sunday day game, and the lineup deployment could be worth the price of admission on its own.


On the bright side for Atlanta, this is a four-game series with LA in which the Braves miss one of the best pitchers on the planet in Clayton Kershaw. However, this will still be a challenging set on the road, and LA is more than capable of rising up and taking a couple of games even against a currently hot Atlanta squad. It should be very interesting, and stay tuned to follow the (very) late night action as it unfolds.