Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (22-30) @ Atlanta Braves (31-20)


May 28, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) slides across home plate to score a run in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks for the innings eaten Ramon Ortiz. Don’t worry about the Blue Jays. We have Esmil Rogers standing by to give us a few quality starter innings…apparently. Looking deeper into the numbers the Braves, as usual, are a notoriously hard team to beat at home. Their home ERA of 2.47 is tied for the major league lead with….Pittsburgh? Their home WHIP of 1.02 is the best in baseball. With Justin Upton (.946 OPS) and Evan Gattis (.945 OPS) leading the charge, along with one of the best hitting catchers in MLB with Brian McCann (.968 OPS) there is some danger afoot for our hitters entering Wednesday’s action.

Probable Pitchers:

Game 1: Esmil Rogers (1-2, 4.56 ERA) vs Kris Medlen (1-5, 3.16 ERA)
game 2: R.A. Dickey (4-6, 4.85 ERA) vs Mike Minor (6-2, 2.47 ERA)

Now Rogers hasn’t started a game since 2011 with the Rockies but as Toronto has tried to stretch him out the last few appearances he hasn’t allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings. He started out a little rough but he seems to have found the control that he lacked at the beginning of the season. He doesn’t strike out many or walk many. Definitely a contact hitter and with the defense playing better lately it could lead to a surprising win since Atlanta isn’t the best with the bats outside of the aforementioned 3 so we have a chance. That is if we can get past former bullpen stalwart now lights out starter Kris Medlen.

Medlen has a home ERA of 2.08 so you know he is going to be tough to beat. He has continued to grow as a starter, though not as dominant as his amazing run last year. He has settled into the spot of a great number 2 pitcher and with a 2.15 ERA in night games he is proving to be a tough nut to crack at home. The Blue Jays have never faced Medlen before so this could be a long long night.

For game 2 we are facing one of the premier young pitchers in the game right now. Over his last 25 starts he has an ERA of 2.32 which has helped him secure his spot with the Braves starting 5. After giving up 6 runs against Detroit on April 28, Minor has given up 3 or fewer runs in five starts with a K/BB of 34/9. His last outing against the Mets he gave up no runs and had 10 Ks in 7 1/3 innings. He has become a tried and true reliable starter and may give our free swinging team fits.

R.A. Dickey is was cruising along in two starts against Tampa Bay and 1 against the San Francisco Giants but then he got pelted for 6 earned against those pesky Orioles. He still has a middling K/BB of 2:1 and has walked 31 in 68 innings already this year after giving up 54 BB all of last year. His knuckler seems to be dancing but not with the control he would like. Is he over his neck and back issues? If our other starters weren’t so hurt and were pitching well, would he be on the DL? It is worth watching. Against the Braves last year they smacked him around to a .333 BA and an OPS of 1.043. This could be a blowout in the not so good way.

Probable Starting Lineups:

Toronto Blue Jays

1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. C: J.P. Arencibia
5. 3B: Mark DeRosa
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 2B: Emilio Bonifacio
8. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
9. (insert starting pitcher here)

Atlanta Braves

1. SS: Adrelton Simmons
2. RF: Jason Heyward
3. LF: Justin Upton
4. 1B: Freddie Freeman
5. 3B: Chris Johnson
6. C: Brian McCann
7. 2B: Dan Uggla
8. CF: B.J. Upton
9. (insert starting pitcher here)

With Jose Bautista leading the charge for the last 7 days (.500 BA, 3 HR, 5 RBI and a ridiculous OPS of 1.471) along with Adam Lind (1.180) and J.P. Arencibia (1.134) the makings of an offensive juggernaut remain. Hopefully the homestand cured us of our road woes (.234 team BA on the road). The Blue Jays are taking baby steps towards respectability and it all starts with winning on the road. If we can break even or a little better on the road then we should be able to be there at the end now that we seem to be finding a bit of a groove at good ol’ Rogers Centre.

Final Word:

The Blue Jays have done a little better so far in inter league play and have split 22 contests with the Atlanta Braves. Our offence seems primed to continue the onslaught but the hostile environment in Atlanta is going to make this difficult. On the surface it seems the Braves should have no trouble taking the first game and if history holds true might even take the second game from us. The key is going to be our bullpen. Rogers is probably only able to go 5 max innings and Dickey might get shelled before the 5th. If we can keep the surging Braves bats to a minimum we may gain a split. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Sorry Blue Jays fans, on paper it looks like a mini sweep for the Braves.