Series Preview: Atlanta Braves (30-19) @ Toronto Blue Jays (21-29)


May 25, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki (66) reacts after making the third out against the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning at the Rogers Centre. Baltimore defeated Toronto 6-5. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
A .500 team. That is where the Blue Jays are heading. Splits with T. Bay and Baltimore along with 2 lost to the Yankees and 2 won from the Giants. It all points towards mediocrity. Who knew that our starters would still be struggling to find consistency. We kind of knew injuries could be an issue but if you have to start a kid with about 100 minor league innings, mostly at A-Ball who is also coming off injury speaks to the lack of depth we have in the rotation. We all thought Alex Anthopoulos was building a few more starters down on the farm but with J.A. Happ out until at least July 7 (thanks to being put on the 60 day DL), Josh Johnson still not fully back (still on conditioning stint), R.A. Dickey battling neck and back issues which are affecting his release point and Mark Buehrle still struggling to put two great starts together I am amazed we are where we are. Thank you offence (even you Munenori Kawasaki).

Probable Pitchers:

Game 1: Tim Hudson (4-3, 4.98 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (1-3, 5.90 ERA)
Game 2: Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.38 ERA) vs Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.50 ERA)

A couple of battle tested veterans going on opposite directions take the hill on this day. Buehrle has gone into the 7th inning in each of his past 3 starts and has left having been on the mound for only 2 or less runs (not including the ones charged to him after the bullpen allowed inherited runners to score). His ERA is still bloated but the good news is it is slowly trending downwards…a trend that will need to continue at least until the All-star break to keep the team in contention. If he is truly turning it around he is running into a buzz saw of a Braves team.

Though Hudson has had has struggles recently (The last three: 0-2 with an 8.56 ERA). B.J. Upton has been a bit of a downer (potential still not realized?) but his brother Justin has been all over it with a solid .957 OPS and a .272 BA to go along with 14 dingers. Couple that with the strong start of feel good story Evan Gattis behind the plate and the team just firing on all cylinders they have the best record in the NL East. It’s a toss up but lean towards the Jays by a run or two due to Hudson’s recent struggles.

Game 2 features the enigma, Brandon Morrow against a somewhat surprising and useful Paul Maholm. Morrow seemed to be getting into a groove and then he met the Yankees and Orioles giving up 5 and 6 earned respectively. His ERA in his past 10? 5.50. His ERA overall? 5.50. He isn’t improving and seems to have regressed a bit this season. There hasn’t been any truly dominating games and it seems a crapshoot everytime he hits the mound. If he was on my fantasy team I would have him benched.

Paul Maholm overall has been pretty good. Well at home. On the road his ERA approaches 5 (4.98) and he seemed to be hitting the skids overall before his last game against Minnesota where he tossed 7+ shutout innings. He has improved his ERA slightly over the last five years and may be the innings eater that each team needs in that 4 spot…a Mark Buehrle type as it were.

Probable Starting Lineups:

Atlanta Braves

1. SS: Andrelton Simmons
2. RF: Reed Johnson
3. LF: Justin Upton
4. 1B Freddie Freeman
5. DH: Evan Gattis
6. C: Brian McCann
7. 2B: Dan Uggla
8. 3B: Chris Johnson
9. CF: Jordan Schafer

Toronto Blue Jays:

1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. DH: Edwin Encarnacion
4. 1B: Adam Lind
5. C: J.P. Arencibia
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B: Brett Lawrie
8. 2B: Emilio Bonifacio
9. SS: Munenori Kawasaki

Yes folks, aside from the middling bats of Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia and the second base platoon of fundamentals gone wrong, we are putting up the numbers. Jose Bautista has been a beast, upping his BA about 51 points in the past 6 DAYS (14-25, .560 BA, 6 runs, 2 HR, 5 RBI). He is absolutely mashing. The Baltimore series showed that we can still pound the ball but get us up against a half decent hitting team and it’s mash baseball over and over again (damn you Adam Jones…). The pitching has not been up to snuff. This month we are 27th in baseball with only 146 Ks. 4th in BB with 84. Our WHIP is 28th at 1.49. This is in the majors, not just the AL. Hitting-wise we are 7th in MLB with a .273 BA, 6th in OPS with .785, 5th in HR, 6th in runs…it all adds up to the fact that our starters kinda suck right now. Will this be the series they…ummm…unsuck?

Final Word:

Mark Buehrle should be able to build off his previous outings. He got to know Atlanta well and this is a Braves team without the mighty Chipper Jones to worry about. Justin Upton has been pretty damn ridiculous (14 HR, .957 OPS) but you have to remember two things. Atlanta is getting killed right now offensively. Their BA is 22nd in the majors at .245. If you can contain Upton you have a shot. The pitching has been amazing. Fourth in the NL and MLB with a 3.31 ERA. That could be tough to take down and should give the Jays hitters a better test than the Orioles staff gave them If Morrow can locate his fastball and take advantage of an aggressive Braves line up then we may be looking good for a win there too. Well…Let’s call the first 2 a split. Seems that’s what we do in these even numbered series lately.