Series Preview: Braves vs. Rockies

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The top hitting team in the Majors visits Atlanta for a three-game series.

Everyone knows the story of the Colorado Rockies: they are world-beaters in their home ballpark, but struggle to win everywhere else. This could be true of most MLB teams, but with no greater discrepancy than with the Rockies. When it comes to offense, the Rockies reign over all. They rank first in hitting (.298), OBP (.346), slugging (.486), runs (257), hits (495) and are second only to Toronto in home runs (63).

The first meeting between the Braves and Rockies in 2014 takes place at Turner Field where the Braves have owned the Rockies in recent years: 13-2 against them since 2010. This Rockies team follows the same script as its predecessors with just a .417 winning percentage away from Coors Field, and a drastic drop in offensive production: .344/.391/.560 at home, .251/.299/.411 on the road.

The Rockies have been one of the surprises in 2014, sitting just three games out of first place in the NL West. New acquisition Justin Morneau has filled in quite admirably since Todd Helton's retirement. The 33-year-old is hitting .323 with a .362 OBP and only 19 strikeouts in 164 at-bats.

One of the surprises of 2014 has been the emergence of Charlie Blackmon. A part-timer each of the last three years, the departure of Dexter Fowler has allowed Blackmon to make the most of his playing time. His .329 avg. and .369 OBP have helped set the table for Colorado's offense.

Earlier this season, young third baseman Nolan Arenado strung together a 28-game hitting streak during which he hit .360. He has cooled off significantly since then, hitting just .233, but has five hits in his last 12 plate appearances.

We all know what Troy Tulowitzki is capable of, and he's been going insane on opposing pitchers to the tune of a major-league leading .380 batting average. He was hitting over .400 as late as May 10 (.405) and as high as .421. His 13 home runs lead the NL and his 35 RBI rank third, but his production has come with speculation of sign stealing. Turner Field has not been kind to him. In 17 games, Tulo is hitting just .203 with five RBI in Atlanta's ballpark.

Another big part of Colorado's offense, Carlos Gonzalez, is day-to-day with an inflamed finger suffered earlier this week. He was hitting .276 at the time of the injury and may not be able to pinch-hit during the series, although he may serve as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement.

The Rockies have never been known for their pitching (4.09 ERA is 22nd in MLB), but anyone who can maintain a sub-4.00 ERA playing at Coors Field deserves some recognition, and Jordan Lyles has done so. In only three of his nine starts has Lyles not completed at least six innings, and only twice has allowed more than three runs.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Friday, May 23, 7:35 p.m. ET

Gavin Floyd (ATL)

3 starts, 0-1 W-L, 2.41 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.2 K/9

Jordan Lyles (COL)

9 starts, 5-1 W-L, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 5.8 K/9

Saturday, May 24, 4:10 p.m. ET

Mike Minor (ATL)

4 starts, 2-2 W-L, 3.80 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Juan Nicasio (COL)

9 starts, 4-2 W-L, 4.03 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 5.6 K/9

Sunday, May 25, 5:10 p.m. ET

Julio Teheran (ATL)

10 starts, 3-3 W-L, 1.92 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

Franklin Morales (COL)

9 starts, 3-3 W-L, 5.33 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

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