What's better than getting swept over 4 games by the Red Sox after they came into the series having lost 10 straight? Following that up with a trip to Miami, and we all know what happened the last time the Braves went down to Miami. That was a
cripplingly depressing fun trip, just as the recent trip to Boston was an incredibly dour fun trip as well! With that being said, here's hoping that the next trip to Miami won't be as "fun" as the other road trips have been.
The Marlins will be missing one special bullet in their chamber, and that's Jose Fernandez. The Braves saw him twice this season in both series, and he dominated in each start. Unfortunately, the electric ace fell victim to a UCL tear and is out for the rest of 2014 due to Tommy John Surgery. The Braves probably wouldn't have had to deal with him anyways, but Henderson Alvarez is currently listed as "day-to-day" with elbow issues. Yeah, there's nothing ominous about that.
However, the Braves are still going to have to deal with the fact that the Marlins are still extremely good inside the funky confines of Marlins Park. The Marlins are currently 28-20 and tied with Atlanta for first place in the NL East. 20 of their wins have come in Miami. Other than the Colorado Rockies (which should be obvious because of the park that they play in), no other team in baseball hits better at home than the Marlins, who are currently hitting .288/.358/.452 as a team with 122 wRC+ at home. Combine that with their home ERA of 3.01 (which would be good for 7th in all of baseball) with a 3.33 FIP and a 3.55 xFIP, and you've got a decent enough recipe for a pretty good team at home.
As expected, OF Giancarlo Stanton has led the way in batter fWAR, hitting .318/.413/.621 with 15 HRs and 179 wRC+ so far, which is good for 3.2 fWAR. He'd be good in any park, though, and the numbers prove it. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, on the other hand, has been the prime example of guys who have been producing like gangbusters at home and done little elsewhere. For 2014, Salty's overall line looks like .247/.343/.420 with 6 HRs and 112 wRC+. His line at home? .317/.380/.520, with half of his dingers coming in Marlins Park and a wRC+ of 150. After a season in Japan, Casey McGehee has a similar story: .299/.363/.383 with 110 wRC+ overall, but at home? .327/.408/.423 with 135 wRC+ and a .400 BABIP. Simply put, they are mashing the ball in Miami, along with the rest of the team. Seriously, look at the home numbers for the rest of the team. Pretty easy to tell why they're doing so well at home.
Obviously, their pitching took a hit with the loss of Jose Fernandez and could take an even bigger hit should Henderson Alvarez's elbow keep on acting up. However, the rotation has still been pretty decent and done their part to keep the Marlins playing at the pace that they've been at so far in 2014. Nathan Eovaldi is easily the best of the 3 starters that the Braves will face this weekend, what with his 3.36 ERA and 3.32 FIP so far. The Braves have already faced him twice, and Eovaldi shut them down on both occasions, and he'll probably be a tough nut for the Braves to crack again on Sunday. Tom Koehler, tonight's starter, has been unspectacular (3.10 ERA, 4.35 FIP), but he also pitched well against Atlanta in his last start against them, going 6 innings with 8 strikeouts. That being said, that was also a game that the Braves won, so hopefully that'll be the case again.
Then there's the case of Saturday's starter Jacob Turner. He's got a 5.35 ERA and a 4.27 FIP to go along with his 1-2 record over 6 starts. Obviously he's doing better at home, right? Wrong. In his 3 starts at home, he's got a 6.06 ERA and a 4.83 FIP, so he's one of those rare Marlins who's been better away from Marlins Park than inside the the confines of rave green walls. Granted, he pitched 6.1 innings of shutout ball against the Brewers his last time out, but here's hoping that the two previous starts are an indicator of things to come for Atlanta. The bullpen (aside from Steve Cishek and A.J. Ramos) has been mediocre at best, but when the rest of the team has been playing well, you don't really need the bullpen to be spectacular.
With all of the gloom and doom that I've been imparting in this preview and the way that Atlanta looked during the miserable series against the Red Sox, there is a bit of optimism: The Marlins did lose their 2nd home series of the season to the Brewers, so that's proof that they aren't a machine and that they are indeed human. The Braves won't have a black hole at 2nd base for the foreseeable future, and they'll have Julio Teheran going tonight and the still-somehow-pitching-well Aaron Harang going on Sunday. This still figures to be a tough series with the way that Miami's played at home, but maybe the Braves could possibly get back up from the mat and come out swinging for this series.
Friday, May 30th at 7:10 PM EST
Julio Teheran (ATL, 4-3, 1.77 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.9 fWAR)
Tom Koehler (MIA, 4-4, 3.10 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 0.2 fWAR)
Saturday, May 31st at 4:10 PM EST
Ervin Santana (ATL, 4-2, 4.06 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 0.9 fWAR)
Jacob Turner (MIA, 1-2, 5.35 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 0.1 fWAR)
Sunday, June 1st at 1:10 PM EST
Aaron Harang (ATL, 4-4, 3.29 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 2.0 fWAR)
Nathan Eovaldi (MIA, 4-2, 3.36 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.0 fWAR)