Let me preface this preview with one simple fact. The Braves are 2-8 playing in Great American Ballpark over the last 3 years. We haven't won a series there since 2009. I really want to believe we can win our first series on the road in Cincy, but the numbers do not reflect us having a good time up there in the past. As with any series, I just want to win game one and go from there. There's a reason to believe our trip up to Great American Smallpark might turn out in our favor this time. The Braves are #2 in the MLB in homers right now. That ballpark is known for giving up lots of homers. The Braves averaged in the bottom half of the MLB in homers in the 3 years prior. That was part of the reason they couldn't leave the yard at Great American from 2010-2012. This lineup is different, though, and it gets the benefit of having Brian McCann come back for this series. Tyler Pastornicky gets optioned down to AAA.
Game 1: Maholm (3-3) v. Arroyo (2-3)
Game 2: Medlen (1-4) v. Bailey (1-3)
Game 3: Minor (3-2) v. Leake (2-1)
The 3 Mmmigos face off against the Reds to start the work week. Game 1 has Maholm coming off 3 losses in a row with one run of support for the totality. Arroyo is coming off two losses in a row with 2 runs of support in all. This is a battle of two starters with decent ERAs who can't get their teams to hit for them. Arroyo has a very solid 2.86 ERA at home with a 2-0 record and an opponent average of .232. Maholm has a 4.07 ERA on the road, mostly due to the 10-0 beatdown by the Tigers, but opponents are only hitting .216 off him. Maholm is also absolutely destroying lefty hitters with a .095 average and .287 OPS. The good news there is the Reds entire OF is left handed, and their best hitters Choo and Votto are leftys. Meanwhile Arroyo has faced Atlanta 4 times in the last 3 years with only 1 win and a 3.86 ERA. Guys like Freeman, CJ, McCann, J Up, and Uggla have destroyed him for 11 homer, 5 doubles, and a combined OPS well over .900 for that part of the lineup. We have a good chance at winning this game if we stay hot at the plate and actually give Maholm some runs.
Game 2 features two pitchers who have had disasterous first months. Medlen has a decent ERA but can't seem to stop giving up second inning runs and subsequent losses. Bailey has a similar ERA and also can't seem to get any support in his losses. Bailey is coming off a bad loss in St. Louis where he gave up 4 runs in 5.1 innings. Medlen is coming off the bad start in Washington where the Braves bats went ice cold. Both are looking for a redemption game to turn their seasons around. Sad to say, the advantage in that category would go to Bailey. He's held the Braves lineup to an absurd .504 OPS and sub .200 average in his career. The Reds have shelled Medlen for a .350 average and a .900 OPS in his career. Granted the sample size is smaller with Medlen, but for a guy who's already struggling going into a small ball park? I hate the matchup in this game.
Game 3 features a tossup. What starter is going to show up? Are you going to get the good Mike Minor who pitched 19 innings with only 5 runs given up, or will we see the bad Mike Minor who gets roughed up for 9 runs in his last two starts? Similarly, will we see the Mike Leake who went two straight games of 14 innings and only 2 earned runs, or the bad Mike Leake who got roughed up for 9 runs in 12 innings at the beginning of the season? It's hard to say because two of Leake's games are against the terrible Cubs, and two of Minor's games are against the terrible Cubs and Marlins. I'm not sure how these guys will look because their peformances have ranged from shutout ball to 6 runs disasters in the first month. They lack consistency. However, Leake's WHIP is over 1.50, and Minor's is under 1.00. That should be a huge advantage for Minor just in case balls fly out of the yard. Keeping the runners off the bases can limit the damage. Also, in a limited sample, Minor is holding the Reds lineup to a .167 average. Guys like Francisco, Reed, and J Up have hit better than .333 off Leake. For those reasons, I think the Braves will have a good chance to take the series in this game.
The CPA is 14-10 on the season. Let's see about Game 1!
CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 6 - Reds 5
The CPA thinks this will be a high-scoring affair. Both pitchers have had issues with recent history, and both lineups are hitting better in their last 3 games. I think they are both looking to support guys who have been drawing next to nothing for runs from their respective teams. Couple that with a small park, and you have a recipe for some home run action. The Braves hold a slight advantage in this game under the CPA, but it's a thin margin. It could come down to who draws first blood and sets the tone of the match.