Series Preview: San Diego Padres At Atlanta Braves

Fredi Gonzalez and the Atlanta Braves are winners of 4 of their last 5 and look to keep things going against the San Diego Padres, who come to town Monday.

The San Diego Padres come to town on Memorial Day to open up a three game set against the Braves at Turner Field. This will be the second series meeting of the two teams in 2011, as the Braves took two of three in San Diego.

It is no secret that the Padres are struggling mightily at the plate this season. Their offensive woes have resulted in a 22-31 record good for second worst in the National League above the lowly Houston Astros. The Padres rank last in the NL in batting (.226), slugging (.334), and on-base percentage (.296) as well as second to last in runs scored (179). Don’t, however, be deceived by this second-to-last statistic, the last place Giants, who have 177 runs have played only 52 games to San Diego’s 53.

What the Friars lack in batting, they try ever so mightily to make up for with solid pitching. Their staff holds a season ERA of 3.30, good for fourth in the NL behind the Braves, Phillies, and Giants – all three teams that were expected to be at the top of the league in the category. After having lost seven of nine, the Padres went to the nation’s capital and won two of three against the Nats.

Pitching matchups after the jump.

Tim Hudson (4-4, 3.95 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (5-2, 3.96 ERA)

Tim Hudson returns for his first start since his May 20 outing against the Angels that occurred during a rough stretch for the ball club.  He lasted 3.2 innings in the game, exiting with back stiffness.  The Padres are one of four teams against whom Huddy holds a perfect record at 5-0.  His career ERA against San Diego is 3.54.  Aaron Harang is coming off of an impressive outing against the big bats of St. Louis going 7 innings and giving up just one earned run.  Harang has not been stellar against Atlanta in his career though, going 1-3 with a 4.72 ERA.

Mike Minor (0-1, 5.40) vs. Mat Latos (2-6 4.08)

Mat Latos’s season numbers aren’t stellar this season (opposing batters hold a .747 OPS), but the Braves’ should know better than to sleep on this friar.  In 2010, Latos’s first full season, he was one of the premier starters in the National League, posting a 2.92 ERA and 14-10 record.  The righty has a live fastball that can reach 97 and will most likely haunt Dan Uggla for nine innings.  Minor will be making the start for his injured roommate Brandon Beachy.  For Minor, it’s all about the curveball.  He was sent to Gwinnett to work on the pitch where he has been pitching well (2.56 ERA in the International League).  Hopefully the Friars won’t put up much better offensive numbers.

Tommy Hanson(5-4, 2.80 ERA) vs. Clayton Richard (2-5 4.42 ERA)

Clayton Richard is probably the most likely candidate of the three-game set to allow the Braves’ bats to get going.  In 3 career starts against Atlanta, Richard has gone only 13.2 innings and allowed 12 earned runs.  However, he pitched well in his last outing against the Nats on Friday, going 7 innings and giving up just one earned run.  The lefthander is big, and was once a solid football prospect as well.  Despite Richard's physical appearances, his fastball isn't overpowering as one might expect, topping out at 93-94 mph.  Tommy needs to get back to his early season form against the Friars in this one.

Series Outlook:

How can a Braves fan not expect at least two out of three against a team like the Padres?  Their pitching will be tough; but at the plate, San Diego is not an offensive club that Huddy, Minor, and Tommy won’t be able to handle.  As much as I expect two of three, I’d like to think the Braves’ can really gather some momentum off of our current 4 of 5 streak with a sweep.

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