The Braves are carrying a four-game winning streak out West after winning two straight over the Phillies and Astros, including a dramatic 3-1 win in 11 innings against Houston on Tuesday. The West Coast road trip begins with two games against the Diamondbacks.
Atlanta is now 25-19, sitting 1.5 games behind the Phillies after their fourth straight loss on Tuesday.
The D'backs are 17-23, sitting in last place in the NL West. A recent five-game losing streak dropped their record considerably, including a sweep by the Giants. They were able to take two of three from the Dodgers in the following series.
Wednesday, May 18 - 9:40 (SportSouth)
Julio Teheran (4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, K; AAA: 37.2 IP, 1.91 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 2.87 BB/9, 7.65 K/9)
Joe Saunders (46 IP, 5.48 ERA, 5.39 FIP, 4.85 xFIP, 4.7 BB/9, 4.89 K/9, 39.2 GB%, 6 SwStr%)
(63.9 FB%, 17.2 CH%, 10 CB%, 8.2 SL%, 0.8 CT%; 43.2 Swing%, 85.5 Contact%)
Teheran returns to the majors sooner than most expected in another spot start, this time for the injured Brandon Beachy. Teheran allowed three runs on four hits in 4.2 innings in his major league debut against the Phillies on May 7. He battled nerves and shaky command in the outing, but he showed flashes of brilliance that have made him the No. 1 pitching prospect in the game. The nerves should be a little better as he makes his second start in a less hostile environment.
Saunders has struggled mightily in his first full season in Arizona, and it shouldn't be that surprising. His ground ball rate has steadily decreased over the past three seasons while his home run rates are correlating with this, sporting a 12.3% HR/FB. Even worse is a spike in walks, almost matching his strikeout total through 46 innings. He has provided zero value for the Diamondbacks to this point.
Thursday, May 19 - 9:40 (SportSouth)
Jair Jurrjens (43.1 IP, 1.66 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 3.34 xFIP, 1.45 BB/9, 5.4 K/9, 49.6 GB%, 6.6 SwStr%)
(60.7 FB%, 22.9 CH%, 16.4 SL%; 47.9 Swing%, 86.2 Contact%)
Josh Collmenter (20 IP, 0.90 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 2.70 xFIP, 0.45 BB/9, 6.3 K/9, 55.8 GB%, 12.1 SwStr%)
(72.8 FB%, 23.2 CH%, 4 CB%; 49.8 Swing%, 75.4 Contact%)
The Jurrjens Show goes on the road. His last start was three runs on three hits in 7.1 innings against the Phillies, walking one and striking out six. He hasn't walked more than one in any of his last three starts, and he hasn't walked more than two in any start. Jurrjens is pitching like a new man this season.
Collmenter has been spot on for the Diamondbacks since getting called up in mid-April, allowing just two runs in 20 innings. Almost all of it is from double digit relief appearances, but he made his first start last time out on May 14 against the Dodgers, pitching six shutout innings on two hits. He has just one walk all season with 14 strikeouts. Collmenter throws a fastball/changeup combination that gets swinging strikes at a good rate, and his ground ball rate has remained high despite the changeup being his out pitch. He's big but doesn't throw hard, relying on change in velocity and movement instead.
The Arizona bullpen is fourth in the National League in ERA at 2.83 and fourth in FIP at 3.45. J.J. Putz has nine saves with a 2.40 ERA. Esmerling Vasquez has allowed three runs in 14.2 innings. David Hernandez has allowed four runs in 18.2 innings. Only one reliever has an ERA above four. It's a surprisingly solid bullpen.
The Diamondbacks offense has a .315 wOBA, good for middle of the pack in the league. Chris Young has launched some bombs from the leadoff spot, but he has poor on-base ability. Kelly Johnson is having a terrible season, hitting .184 with four homers and seven RBIs. Justin Upton has also launched some bombs with less than stellar on-base ability. Stephen Drew is one of the better on-base hitters in the lineup out of the cleanup spot.