With the trade deadline overlapping this series, the Braves may have a different look at series end. With the Phillies picking up Roy Oswalt, the pressure is on the Braves to make a move. There aren't many better farm systems in baseball than that of the Braves, so Frank Wren would be wise to use it to make a move before the deadline. The Braves have struggled as of late, starting off this nine game road trip with two series losses to the Marlins and Nationals. The Braves now face a much tougher opponent in the Cincinnati Reds, who own a 31-22 record at The Great American Ballpark.
Friday: 7:10 EST: Kris Medlen (6-2, 3.57 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 3.02 K/BB) vs. Johnny Cueto (10-2, 3.18 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 2.17 K/BB)
The Braves lineup gets no break to start the series. Cueto has pitched well this season, especially as of late. Over his past 21 innings, Cueto has allowed just three earned runs and 12 hits. Medlen is coming off of a poor start against the Marlins in which he got hit pretty hard. He allowed two home runs and eight hits over six innings, allowing a total of five runs to cross. He did strike out eight and walked just one, which is definitely a good sign. This is my favorite pitching matchup of the series. If the Braves can win this game, I could definitely envision a sweep with the following matchups (getting ahead of myself).
Saturday: 4:10 EST: Jair Jurrjens (3-3, 4.37 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 1.78 K/BB) vs. Bronson Arroyo (4.21 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.48 K/BB)
Jair has pitched more like his normal self since returning from the disabled list in late June. Since his return to the rotation, Jair has a 2.84 ERA over 31.2 innings. He is coming off of a rough start against the Marlins in which he was able to go seven innings but allowed four runs. Arroyo allowed just four base runners in his last start against the Brewers, but he allowed two home runs and three runs in total. He has an impressive 3.38 ERA in July, but has also been fortunate to have a .180 BABIP over that same time span. A regression is due for Bronson, and hopefully the Braves bats start it.
Sunday: 1:10 EST: Tommy Hanson (8-7, 3.99 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 2.78 K/BB) vs. Edinson Volqeuz (8.25 ERA, 6.44 FIP, 1.60 K/BB)
If there is one game the Braves have the clear advantage, it's this one. Volqeuz was on the DL, where he also served a 50 game suspension for PED use, for most of the season. Since returning, he has had one good start which preceded two awful outings. Volquez has allowed 10 earned runs over his past six innings, spanning two starts. I watched his start vs. the Nationals last week and he looked awful. If you are able to get on base early against Edinson and prevent him from getting comfortable on the mound, you will score a bunch of runs. Hanson was a tough luck loser against the Nationals earlier this week, striking out eight batters and walking none over six innings. His defense let him down as he allowed three total runs with just one being earned. Brian McCann and Chipper Jones both had bad throws which lead to the Nationals runs.
The Reds rank first in runs with 506, wOBA at .340, SLG at .439, and AVG at .272. They also rank second in OBP at .338 (Braves are first at .343) and ISO at .166. The next closest team in runs is the Brewers at 486, so the Reds have a pretty comfortable lead. There is pretty much no doubt that they have the best lineup in the National League. The lineup is lead by MVP candidate Joey Votto, who leads the NL in wOBA at .438. Other Reds to watch out for offensively are Scott Rolen (.385 wOBA), Brandon Phillips (.354 wOBA), and the catching combination of Ryan Hanigan (.372 wOBA) and Ramon Hernandez (.347 wOBA). Since June 12, Jay Bruce is hitting just .247 with one home run. His OPS+ is now down to 100 for the season, so I don't see him as much of a threat. Personally, I'm a Drew Stubbs fan. He has a low average (.235) which has lead a low OBP (.304) but he packs a lot of power (13 HR) and speed (18 SB in 21 attempts).
The Reds don't have much in the bullpen. Arthur Rhodes has been their best middle reliever, posting a 1.56 ERA despite a 3.36 FIP. Other than Rhodes, Logan Ondrusek has been decent. Nick Masset has thrown the ball better than his ERA would suggest, but he has been pretty wild at times. Closer Fransisco Cordero has saved 27 games in 33 opportunities this season. Cordero has a 3.74 ERA with a 4.47 FIP and 4.57 xFIP. He has walked nearly five batters per nine, so if the Braves are able to be patient with him they should be able to get runners on base.