The Braves are back, making their final visit of the season – barring hurricane postponements – to Citi Field this weekend. Here are five things you might want to know about the Mets’ opponent:
1. Here’s the lineup the Braves have been running out recently:
CF – Michael Bourn – L
LF – Martin Prado – R
C – Brian McCann – L
2B – Dan Uggla – R
1B – Freddie Freeman – L
3B – Chipper Jones – S
SS – Alex Gonzalez – R
RF – Jason Heyward – L
Jason Heyward’s swing is still all wrong (.214/.298/.381 in August), so the speedy Jose Constanza continues to see playing time in the corner outfield spots. Constanza is batting .372/.417/.487 since being called up at the end of last month, but he’s a career .290/.364/.356 hitter in the minor leagues and sports a .407 batting average on balls in play in the majors – so it’d be surprising if he kept this up. Dan Uggla has a 1.145 OPS and 10 home runs this month, and Chipper Jones has been hot when he’s played.
2. Speaking of Uggla – Mr. Protein is the rare righthanded hitter who hits righthanded pitchers better than lefties, a reverse-platoon split. The righthanded batter has a career slash line of .264/.343/.497 against righthanded pitchers, but just a .244/.340/.439 line against lefties. It’s only gotten worse this season, as Uggla is hitting .244/.307/.494 against righties and just .195/.287/.361 against lefties. Apparently unaware of this (as well as many other things), Fredi Gonazlez has been sandwiching the mid-day-meat-train-that-is Dan Uggla between lefties in the lineup. I hope the Mets realize this, but if not, feel free to scream at your television if Terry Collins doesn’t go to (and stick with) Tim Byrdak against the heart of Atlanta’s lineup late in a game.
3. The Braves’ lefthanded leanings, along with Uggla’s general uselessness against lefties, means that they’ve been cut apart by sinistral pitching this season: The Braves have a .657 team OPS against southpaws this season. Only the anemic Giants have been worse, and just by a tick. It hasn’t made an enormous difference in their record, as they’re 21-17 (.552%) against lefthanded starters and 57-36 against righties (.612%); Atlanta’s strength has been their pitching anyway. But the prospect of facing Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee four times in the NLCS would be foreboding for this Braves team as the prospect of a Phillies-Braves NLCS would be for the general population.
Okay, let’s check:
Yup, still funny.
4. The Pitching matchups for this series:
The Whole Weekend: Man (3-7, 6.50 ERA) vs Mother Nature (20-0, 0.00 ERA)
Man has done some cool stuff: Gone to the moon, made some decent music, irreparably damaged the atmosphere of an entire planet in less than a century (maybe). But Mother Nature is undefeated in all her starts, going back to the beginning of time, and she’s been working on a nasty hurricane. Not a good matchup for mankind this weekend.
August 26: Tim Hudson (13-7, 3.01 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (9-11, 4.71 ERA)
Hudson had some problems and bad luck with runners in scoring position earlier in the season, leading to a 4.14 ERA at the beginning of June. Since then, Hudson has rolled off a 2.09 ERA in 14 starts, and has completed at least seven innings in nine straight starts. Capuano might get back on track against the Braves, whose struggles against lefties are noted above.
August 27: Jair Jurrjens (13-5, 2.71 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (5-11, 3.72 ERA)
Jurrjens was scratched and DL-ed with a knee strain before his last scheduled start against the Mets. He’s made two starts since returning, allowing 23 baserunners in 12.1 innings, and his velocity is still down from where it was earlier in the season — whatever the Braves are saying, I’d guess that he’s still hurt. Dickey has a 3.72 ERA against Atlanta in six starts and a relief appearance (remember that?) with the Mets.
August 28: Mike Minor (4-2, 4.37 ERA) vs Dillon Gee (11-5, 4.37 ERA)
5. Atlanta called up 20-year-old pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino (3.06 ERA in 97 innings across the upper minors) and stuck him into the big league bullpen to limit his innings. He’s been averaging 97 MPH with his fastball and has struck out 10 batters in his first seven big league appearances. Which means that the Braves now have four, young, ridiculously awesome pitchers working in their bullpen. The Mets have, I don’t know, maybe half of one — Bobby Parnell is going to be 27 years old already in two weeks. The Braves have the best bullpen in the league by any measure, but it’s a group that has worked 100 more innings than Philadelphia’s bullpen, and nearly 50 more innings than the Mets bullpen.
And those were some things to know about the Atlanta Braves. Right, Chipper?