The Snakes are coming to town! Just before the Braves left for their 9-game road trip -- in which they rallied for a 5-and-4 record -- they swept the Astros in Atlanta. That was the battle of two last place teams in their respective divisions, and once again, as the Braves return home they conjure up another battle between two last place teams.
While the Braves have played well of late, and are only two games under .500, they still find themselves in last place in the NL East with a record of 16-and-18. The Diamondbacks are also in last place in the NL West with a 14-and-21 mark, the second-worst record in the National League, and losers of six in a row.
Unlike the Braves, the Diamondbacks have hit the ball, they just haven't thrown the ball particularly well, especially in the bullpen. The D-Backs have the worst bullpen in baseball, and I mean "the worst." Their pen ERA is an ugly 7.37, with only one reliever with an ERA under 6.00 -- the stink has been spread around to everyone. Even the closer -- if you can call him that -- Chad Qualls, has a 6.39 ERA. Certainly if the Braves can bring their patient approach home with them, and like they did in Milwaukee, take a lot of pitches and chase the starting pitcher early and get into that Arizona bullpen, then Atlanta should find a lot of come from behind or pad the lead opportunities.
If the bullpen is the D-Backs Achilles heel on the pitching side of the ball, then the strikeout is their Achilles heel on the hitting side of the ball. They lead baseball with 321 K's as a team, almost 100 more strikeouts than the Braves have as a team. With those strikeouts, though, comes a lot more power than the Braves have. While Atlanta is second to last in the NL in homeruns with 23, Arizona has almost double that number to lead the league with 44 round-trippers. The two guys leading that homerun charge are K-specialist Mark Reynolds and former Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson, each with 10 homeruns a piece.
During their 6-game losing streak they have experienced quite the power outage, but that pales in comparison to the bullpen collapse. During the last 7 days the Arizona pen has allowed 26 runs in only 16 innings. The only guy pitching well is Aaron Heilman. This series will be like a sprint to the Arizona bullpen.
The starting pitching matchups for the series are after the jump.
Game 1: Friday, 7:35pm - Ian Kennedy vs. Kenshin Kawakami
Kennedy has been the Diamondback's best starter this year, while Kawakami has been the Braves' worst. KK has pitched better of late, and after some rough early innings in his last start he settled in and pitched very well, giving us some hope that he might be coming around. Kawakami has changed his delivery by not bringing his arms over his head, a move which he hopes will help him keep a better eye on the plate and remain more consistent in his delivery.
|2010 - Ian Kennedy||2-2||7||7||0||0||0||0||44.0||38||18||17||8||11||35||3.48||1.11|
|2010 - Kenshin Kawakami||0-6||6||6||0||0||0||0||33.0||38||23||21||6||10||16||5.73||1.45|
Game 2: Saturday, 7:10pm - Rodrigo Lopez vs. Tommy Hanson
Lopez has been a decent starter for Arizona, while Hanson has been the Braves' ace. Tommy looked in complete command in his last outing while dominating the Brewers.
|2010 - Rodrigo Lopez||1-2||7||7||0||0||0||0||44.0||51||26||21||7||12||26||4.30||1.43|
|2010 - Tommy Hanson||3-2||7||7||1||0||0||0||43.0||36||12||11||3||13||46||2.30||1.14|
Game 3: Sunday, 1:35pm - Dan Haren vs. Tim Hudson
The battle of two former A's pitchers. Haren has been hittable this season and prone to big innings, but he's still a strikeout pitcher and capable of shutting any offense down. Hudson was a little wild in his last start, walking six in as many innings, but escaping jams with the help of the ground ball. It will be interesting to see if that wildness continues, or if it was just a one-time thing.
|2010 - Dan Haren||4-2||9||8||1||0||0||0||55.1||59||28||26||6||12||60||4.23||1.28|
|2010 - Tim Hudson||3-1||7||7||0||0||0||0||44.1||37||13||13||4||18||17||2.64||1.24|
It should be a good series, and a good opportunity for the Braves to win a few more games. GO BRAVES!!!