The Braves take a first class jetplane out for a 7 game road trip in Cali. The only difference in this trip from our previous west coast swing is that we're facing two sub-.500 ball clubs. The first four game set begins with the Dodgers, a team expected to rule the roost in the NL West, but instead has fallen into dead last behind the hapless Padres. What can you say about a team with a 200 million dollar payroll and a 25-33 record in June? Simply put, they can't score runs. They have the second worst RISP average in the NL. They hit the 3rd fewest homers. They just don't put together good innings, and the starting pitching is only average at best, with a bullpen that's one match away from burning down the building. On to the matchups:
Game 1 - Hudson (4-4) v. Greinke (2-1)
Game 2 - Maholm (7-4) v. Ryu (6-2)
Game 3 - Medlen (2-6) v. Fife (1-0)
Game 4 - Minor (7-2) v. Lilly (0-2)
For those that recall, the Braves split the season series with the Dodgers 3-3 last season. Those Dodgers were a much better 10 games above average team. This is an 8 games below average team, so I expect better results this go round. Game 1 features our struggling road ace against the Dodgers volatile starter who gave up 13 runs in his last 3 starts. Tim dazzled in Turner Field, but he's been less than stellar once he leaves the state. However, against the Dodgers Tim has held the lineup to under a .700 OPS, and specifically he's dominated Ethier, both Ellis boys, and Punto. The guys he struggles with are Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The good news is that Crawford, Ellis, and Kemp are on the DL for the Dodgers, so they aren't a factor. On the other side, Greinke struggles with most of the Braves lineup. McCann, Uggla, and Justin have huge numbers off Zach, while Schafer and Reed, could also fit into the lineup with their successes off Greinke. I wouldn't mind seeing BJ take the day off in this matchup so Schafer can get a few ABs.
Maholm has won 4 straight with 3 decisions, but he's another Braves guy with road troubles. Hyun-Jin Ryu lost to Atlanta in his Turner Field outing, but he didn't factor in the decision either. The Braves didn't hit well against Ryu, with the exception of Freeman and Heyward. Then again, they rarely hit pitchers well the first time they see them. Now that they have some looks, I expect better results. Maholm owns Gonzalez, but he struggles with Hairston and Ramirez. Seeing as how both of those guys are not hitting well this season due to injury or other reasons, I'm not really worried. The concern is Ryu's 1.57 home ERA versus Maholm's 5.36 road ERA. It's a different team that takes the field on the road, and odd things happen.
Game 3 is one you hope Medlen will use as a building block. He finally got off the shnide in his last game, collecting the necessary run support to get a win. Not counting the game he was knocked out of with a random liner off the leg, Medlen has led the Braves to 3 straight wins when he's pitched 6 innings or more. Stephen Fife, who I want to call Barney, is getting his 3rd start of the season, and he's undefeated so far in the other two. Not good odds for young Kris as he's been snakebit before by guys the Braves have never faced. Medlen will have to watch out for Ramirez and Either with their combined .700 slugging against him, but the rest of the Dodgers haven't had much success. Fife destroyed the Padres in his only home outing, but the Braves aren't the Padres. Like, not even close.
Game 4 is the marquee match for the Braves. Minor goes against Lilly in our favorite kind of lefty lefty matchup. The kind where we hold a huge statistical advantage. Minor is sporting the 2.52 ERA with a .90 WHIP, and Lilly has the 5.09 ERA with 1.61 WHIP. There's no part of this pitching matchup that doesn't favor Minor. Unless your name is Justin Upton, you don't mind facing Lilly either. The most ridiculous stat-padder is Dan Uggla with his 2 bombs in 13 ABs off Lilly. In a recurring theme of hitters to watch out for, Gonzalez has touched up Minor in his brief ABs against the young lefty. Basically if Adrian Gonzalez is in the box, the Braves need to be careful all series. That guy is one of the few guys on the Dodgers who can still damage you badly. He's absolutely raking this season at a .323 average with 20 extra base hits. In June. He's a top 20 hitter in the league right now, no questions asked. Avoid please.
What's the one thing we remember about the Dodgers when they came to Turner Field this year? Did I hear crappy bullpen in the back? That's right! The Dodgers have the 21st ranked bullpen by ERA in the MLB, and the Braves are numero uno. If we knock out starters, it's all gravy from that point forward. That's why we swept the Dodgers in our home series in April. Now, it's a 4 game series on the road, so standard Ben the CPA expectations apply. I want a 2-2 split, and if I get more, good. However, no matter how bad a team is, I don't expect to come up with big numbers in a 4 gamer away. It's so hard to do in this league, and we've already lost 3 of 4 twice this season in road 4s. Just split and move on to the greener pastures Braves. That's what we need.
The CPA (30-19) lost yesterday because it didn't predict a future that included Wandy Rodriguez leaving after 14 pitches. However, that's okay because the Braves won. That's when we're happy it's wrong by hook or by crook. Can Huddy rebound today? Let's see what it thinks.
CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 6 - Dodgers 2
The CPA loves Huddy in a rebound game. He's good against most of the lineup for the Dodgers with the big boppers injured and on the DL. Greinke has been bleeding out in his last 3, and his mental state is bad enough before you even get to the shoddy pen. Look for the Braves to try and step on the gas early to make a statement. Watch for Justin Upton in this game, too. He loves hitting Greinke.