Note: The auto-tagger isn't working right now. Hopefully it will soon and I'll be able to tag all of the players.
The story of this series is without question Mike Minor making his debut with the big ball club. I'm sure we all wish the circumstances for his debt were different, but he's up now and hopefully, he is up to stay. The Braves beat up a fellow playoff contender in the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, winning three out of four. Although the team has had troubles on the road, you have to assume an away series against the Astros is a good way to solve their road problems.
Monday, 8:05 EST: Mike Minor (3.44 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 3.17 K/BB in MiLB) vs. Bud Norris (4-7, 5.65 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 2.28 K/BB)
Minor has been great this season in the minors and looks to transition that success into the majors. Jacob wrote a very good article on what to expect from Minor this season, and he really couldn't get introduced into the majors in a better way. The Astros have a putrid offense, so I expect Minor to pitch relatively well tonight. Norris actually hasn't been too bad this year, despite the high ERA. He strikes out more than a batter per inning but he also walks over four batters per nine. If the Braves stay patient like they usually do, they should be able to get enough base runners on to score some runs on Bud.
Tuesday, 8:05 EST: Jair Jurrjens (4-4, 4.48 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.92 K/BB) vs. J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.03 ERA, 5.39 FIP, 0.84 K/BB)
The Braves face a familiar foe in J.A. Happ on Tuesday night. Happ was moved to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal. He has had a good start and a bad start since then, throwing six scoreless innings in his first start followed by a one inning, seven runs allowed performance in his latest outing. He has had some success in his career against the Braves, posting a 2.23 ERA in five starts, but he also has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 18-12 against them. Jair battled through his last start, allowing just two runs over six innings despite starting off poorly. This is probably the most evenly matched game of the series.
Wednesday, 2:05 EST: Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.69 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.25 K/BB) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (9-11, 4.34 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 2.32 K/BB)
The curse of Kenshin Kawakami has now hit Tommy Hanson, but I don't see that trend continuing in his next start, even though the Braves are opposing a decent lefty. Hanson's season has been absolutely phenomenal but the Braves haven't been able to score for him lately or play defense. I expect him to dominate the Astro's lineup though, hopefully leading to a victory for him and the team. Rodriguez is a pretty solid, veteran left-handed starter, and that is a combination that usually gives the Braves a bit of trouble (see Moyer, Jamie).
The Astro Lineup:
The Astros don't have much offensively after trading Lance Berkman to the Yankees. Their best hitter right now is probably Chris Johnson, with Hunter Pence being the most dangerous bat overall. Johnson and Jason Michaels are the only hitters with a wOBA over .340 and only Jeff Keppinger and and Pence are in the .330-.340 range. The Braves shouldn't have much trouble pitching to this offense.
The Astro Bullpen:
Brandon Lyon, Matt Lindstrom, and Wilton Lopez have all been good relievers this season. All three have ERA's and FIP's in the low 3's, so getting ahead on the starters would be ideal. All three are righties though, so they don't quite have the flexibility that the Braves 'pen has with the dominant lefties and righties. The back end of their bullpen is definitely their biggest strength, although they are relatively under-the-radar relievers.