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Series Preview: Braves At Mariners

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The Braves avoided Felix Hernandez when the Mariners visited Atlanta in June. For Atlanta's trip to Seattle, they won't be as lucky.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Interleague baseball doesn't have much novelty anymore, especially since the Astros moved to the American League and made it so that every day, somewhere in baseball, an interleague game was being played. However, there are still some intriguing and rare matchups to be had, and the Braves travelling to Seattle is one of those matchups. Atlanta hasn't visited Safeco Field since 2011, and they've only played 6 games there, ever. After Wednesday evening, that number will be 8. Hopefully by then, the Braves will have made another group of 6 games disappear; Their 6-game losing streak.

It's safe to say that the Braves are scuffling out there right now. You've got B.J. Upton whiffing in the leadoff spot like it's going out of style, you've got Andrelton Simmons laying down rogue bunts, and you've got guys grounding into double plays at the worst possible time (like with the bases loaded and nobody out or one out. That happened twice this weekend and it took at least 30 days off of my life from the stress it caused me). Offensive failures at inopportune moments have been one of the hallmarks of this recent losing streak, which makes this just a perfect and wonderful time to run into Major League Baseball's leader in fWAR for pitchers: Felix Hernandez! King Felix will be heading into tonight's start with an ERA of 2.01 and a FIP of 2.07. If those numbers aren't sexy enough for you, then check out his ERA- and FIP-, which are at 53 and 55, respectively. That's nasty. Also, his K% is currently at 28.1%, his K/9 is at 9.69, and in his past 3 home starts, he's struck out 9 or more in each start. The Braves offense currently has a K% at the plate of 22.1%. There will be whiffs tonight.

Fortunately, the Mariners offense isn't exactly a hitting dynamo (like the San Diego Padres, right?). According to fWAR, Seattle currently has the 3rd worst offense in the American League, and in the extreme short term (talking last 5 games), they've either been completely shut down to the tune of either a shutout (twice) or just 1 run (once) or they've gone off for 6 runs (twice). 3B Kyle Seager and 2B Robinson Cano have both been putting up pretty good numbers on offense. That's about it. If you don't believe me, then maybe you will believe Mariners fans who have to watch that every night. Check out Lookout Landing's review of Seattle's offense for July. It wasn't pretty. At all. They'll also be missing CF Michael Saunders, who has been a decent enough hitter for them. So basically, if the Braves can limit Cano and Seager's damage, then Atlanta will have a decent chance of winning one or even both of these games.

That means that for these 2 games, it will be imperative for the Braves' pitching staff to take advantage of a bad offense and keep them down. Alex Wood's starting tonight and it will be on him to make sure that the Braves still have a shot at winning the game, even with King Felix doing what King Felix does on nearly every outing. The roles might be reversed for the Getaway Day game on Wednesday, as Julio Teheran will have a shot to do his worst to the Mariners bats, while the M's will counter with Chris Young, who (other than pitching 7 innings of shutout ball against the Orioles back on July 26th) hasn't been the sharpest as of late: For the month of July, his ERA was 3.29 and his FIP was 4.55. For comparison's sakes, Teheran's ERA and FIP for July was 3.76 and 3.71 respectively, and that was including that debacle of a start against the Mets on the 2nd of July. A "bad" month for Teheran is a decent month for Young, but here's hoping that we get a start from Teheran that's more characteristic of what we expect of him.

Now, if you want some positive news for the Braves offense as they go into this mini-series with the Mariners, here's this: Against Felix Hernandez, Jason Heyward is hitting .333/.500/.333 against him, while Freddie Freeman is hitting .750/.750/.750 against him. Granted, that comes from about as small of a sample as you can get: 1 game from 3 years ago, but the point is that there is a glimmer of hope for the Braves offense for tonight's contest. Felix Hernandez is human. He can be hit. Hey, maybe even B.J. Upton can do something against Felix and that nasty change-up of his.

Or maybe not. Let's just pray and hope for the best tonight. Other than having to deal with...that...the Braves definitely have a shot at getting at least a split. Either way, the losing streak has to end soon. They cannot go into the Nationals series this weekend on the heels of an 8-game losing streak. I can't stress how important it is that the Braves pick up a W over the next 48 hours, and hopefully they'll be able to get it.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tuesday, August 5th at 10:10 PM EST

Alex Wood (ATL): 7-8, 3.30 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 8.86 K/9, 1.4 fWAR
Vs.
Felix Hernandez (SEA): 11-3, 2.01 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 5.5% HR/FB%, 5.8 fWAR

Wednesday, August 6th at 3:40 PM EST

Julio Teheran (ATL): 10-7, 2.69 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.94 BB/9, 2.4 fWAR
Vs. 
Chris Young (SEA): 9-6, 3.19 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 83.3% LOB%, 0.6 fWAR