Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The Atlanta Braves were dealt horrible luck when their best starting pitcher, Tim Hudson, suffered a fractured ankle Wednesday Night in New York against the Mets. The team had been treading water for months in the weak NL East anyway after jumping out to a 12-1 start this season. Now, they must try to win the division without the closest thing they had to an ace.
To the degree there’s good news, the Braves are in a very weak division that sees no other teams playing well right now. Washington has slumped badly since the All-Star Break, falling on their faces just when they needed to make a statement. Philadelphia is hanging around the .500 mark, but looks badly outclassed whenever they play good teams. The Mets and Marlins are too far off the pace to matter. It’s possible that a record as soft as 85-77 could win the division…which means Atlanta could play a few games under .500 from this point forward and coast home.
That’s far from a sure thing though. The rest of the starting rotation has been inconsistent at best in recent weeks, and now the best team in the National League…the St. Louis Cardinals…come to town for a three-game series. Atlanta desperately needs a show of strength to keep the Phils and Nats from getting any ideas about the divisional pennant.
And, the whole world will be watching! Friday’s game will be on the MLB Network. Saturday’s game is part of FOX’s regional coverage. Sunday Night’s game will be on ESPN.
Let’s check out the projected pitching matchups…
St. Louis…Wainwright: 13-5, 2.44 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
Atlanta… Minor: 9-5, 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
More bad news for the Braves, they draw one of the best pitchers in baseball in the series opener! Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate, though Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers has generally been the more overpowering of the two.
Minor looks good in those numbers. The problem is…his ERA has jumped from 2.44 in his last seven starts to 2.98…and he’s been allowing runs to the likes of Miami (twice), Kansas City, and the Chicago White Sox. A stellar opening the season is in the rearview mirror right now…and Minor’s become a guy with an ERA near 4.00 over his last seven starts against a weak schedule. Edge to the Cards.
St. Louis… Kelly: 1-3, 3.88 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
Atlanta …Teheran: 7-5, 3.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Kelly’s just a spot starter, and he hasn’t thrown in a while. The Cards hope to get five decent innings out of him before turning things over to the bullpen. A break for Atlanta in that they catch a potential soft spot here.
Teheran started the season poorly…but has really settled in to become a reliable arm. The concern is that the Braves schedule has been so soft that he’s going to be overmatched by top offenses. There are so few good offenses in the NL! This is Atlanta’s best spot to get a win in the series…but Teheran better be ready to deal with everything the Cards bring to the plate.
St. Louis…Miller: 10-6, 2.77 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
Atlanta… Medlen: 6-10, 3.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Miller saw his ERA jump way up from 2.08 after running into a few American League offenses in Interleague action. You must always remember that the NL is still a glorified minor league! Hey, the St. Louis offense is legit…but remember that the Cards were squashed by Oakland and Texas when they had to step up in class a few weeks ago. Miller has been having very good success against offenses of Atlanta’s caliber this season.
Medlen’s ERA is an ugly 5.53 over his last seven starts…as he joins the list of Braves pitchers who have been trending in the wrong direction. Horrible weekend to run into the Cardinals! The Cards and Rookie of the Year candidate Miller may deserve some serious though here…unless they took the first two games of the series and get caught looking ahead to a Monday game against rival Pittsburgh.
That’s one of the few breaks Atlanta is catching right now…the Cardinals may look ahead to Pittsburgh instead of bringing peak intensity to this series.
JIM HURLEY will work closely with his SOURCES and STATHEADS to make sure you get the right plays in this series and the rest of the MLB card (other marquee matchups include Reds/Dodgers—previewed on these pages yesterday, Red Sox/Orioles, Reds/Yankees, and Rangers/Indians). You can purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
It’s back to college football Saturday and Sunday in the NOTEBOOK, as we wrap up our summer series of college football conference previews with the Pac 12 North and South. Our annual NFL divisional previews will begin when the Hall of Fame game arrives next weekend. The summer is flying by!
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