HOUSTON - JUNE 13: Pitcher Derek Lowe #32 of the Atlanta Braves throws against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Minute Maid Park on June 13, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Braves Vs. Mariners: Atlanta Sweeps Seattle With 5-3 Victory

In a series that features two of the better pitching staffs in baseball, runs will come at a premium.

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Braves Vs. Mariners Final Score: SWEEP!

The Braves had the daunting task of facing Felix Hernandez on Wednesday afternoon if they hoped to complete the sweep, but some timely hitting and a little luck brought them their third win in Seattle and 47th win overall.

Derek Lowe started for the Braves and was actually pretty good. He struggled to consistently throw strikes at times, but was able to keep the Mariners off the scoreboard until later in the game. Lowe worked six innings and allowed just four hits and three walks. He gave up a lone run in the fifth inning, but didn't allow anything other than that. He struck out five batters.

"King" Felix Hernandez started for Seattle and it appeared if it was going to be a long day for the Braves. He struck out five of the first ten batters he faced and had the opposition swinging wildly. Despite the strong start, Hernandez proved to be human and gave up ten hits and three walks in route of five Atlanta runs. He struck out six.

The Braves worked a little 2-out magic in the fourth inning to take the lead. Freddie Freeman singled, Dan Uggla singled and Brooks Conrad squeaked a grounder up the middle to make the score 1-0. They added on in the fifth courtesy of a few wild pitches; Nate McLouth walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a deep fly ball from Alex Gonzalez and came in to score when Hernandez threw a slider in the dirt that got away from catcher Josh Bard.

With the score 2-0, Jordan Schafer singled up the middle and Jason Heyward walked. Brian McCann grounded out to the pitcher to put two runners in scoring position when Freddie Freeman continued his big series with a 2-run line drive single up the middle. Atlanta led 4-0 through five and a half.

The Mariners got on the board in the bottom half of the fifth on three singles from Franklin Gutierrez, Josh Bard and Ichiro Suzuki. Derek Lowe battled back, though, and got out the inning after allowing the one run.

Brian McCann continued his incredible series with an RBI-single in the seventh to give the Braves a comfortable 5-1 lead. Top-prospect Dustin Ackley hit a 2-run homer off Jonny Venters to cut the lead to 5-3, but Venters ended the inning with a strikeout of Jack Cust. The homer was the first one Venters has allowed this season.

Craig Kimbrel, working for the third straight day, closed out the game in the ninth and struck out two of the three batters he faced. He now has 23 saves this season.

Braves win 5-3 and complete the sweep. The club has an off-day on Thursday before returning home for a 3-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Jair Jurrjens and his 10 wins will be on the mound for the 7:35 start.

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Braves Vs. Mariners Final Score: Atlanta Wins A Wild One 5-4 Behind Brian McCann's Heroics

It's a shame that so many Braves fans missed the game tonight. It was wild and one of the more thrilling and rewarding wins of the season.

Tommy Hanson made his return to the mound and battled control issues early before settling in and dominating. He tossed six innings and allowed six hits and three walks, all while giving up three runs to the weak-hitting Mariners lineup. Most of the damage was done in the first two innings, though, and Hanson gave up just one hit after the second inning.

Michael Pineda started for the Mariners and was great before a meltdown in the seventh inning. Pineda dominated the Braves' lineup for the first four innings before making a mistake to Dan Uggla, but settled in nicely once again and continued his good work before losing command later on in the game. He ended up tossing 6.1 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on just four hits. His downfall came courtesy of the walk, including three in the seventh. He struck out five.

So now that I've teased the seventh inning about five times now, I guess I should let you know what led up to the inning. Ichiro Suzuki lined the first pitch of the game over the right field wall for a solo-home run and Jack Cust drove in the second run of the game in the second inning on an RBI-double to the gap. Cust homered in the fourth to give Seattle a comfortable 3-0 lead.

Dan Uggla got the Braves on the scoreboard with a 400-foot home run to center field to make the score 3-1. The homer was his third in the last six games. Atlanta scored another run in the sixth courtesy of a Justin Smoak error and a little 2-out magic; Jason Heyward singled, Brian McCann singled and Chipper Jones tapped one between Smoak and second baseman Dustin Ackley. Smoak should have let the ball go through to Ackley, but instead he attempted to field the ball, which ricocheted off his glove towards the outfield grass. Heyward scored easily and the score was 3-2.

After being aggressive at the plate all night long, the Braves displayed some patience and took the lead in the seventh inning. Dan Uggla walked, Eric Hinske walked, Alex Gonzalez struck out, but Nate McLouth walked as well. With the bases loaded and just one out, Michael Pineda was lifted from the game in favor of talented left-handed reliever Aaron Laffey.

Laffey usually dominates left-handed batters, but Jordan Schafer came up with a huge RBI-single to right field to tie the game. Jason Heyward struck out swinging, but Laffey would still have to get Brian MVP McCann out if he hoped to get through the inning. McCann hit a grounder to the right side of the infield that squeaked by Ackley and Smoak and two runs came in to score as the thousands of Braves fans at Safeco Field erupted. Atlanta led 5-3.

George Sherrill was a victim of a few bloop hits and gave up a run, but with runners on the corner and two out, Scott Proctor came in and got the final out of the inning with a strikeout. Jonny Venters worked a quick eighth inning.

The Braves should have scored an insurance run in the ninth, but the home plate umpire incorrectly called Jason Heyward out at the plate. Replays showed it was a close play, but Heyward unquestionably beat the tag. The score was 5-4 as the two clubs headed to the bottom of the ninth.

Craig Kimbrel struck out Ichiro to start the inning. Brendan Ryan lined a 97mph fastball back up the middle to put the tying runner on base, but Kimbrel struck out Adam Kennedy for the second out. Justin Smoak came to the plate as the potential winning run, but popped up harmlessly to shortstop Alex Gonzalez for the final out of the game.

Wow.

Braves win 5-4. Big game for the club.

The task gets even more difficult Wednesday afternoon as Atlanta will face Felix Hernandez. Derek Lowe will take the mound for the Braves. First pitch is at 3:40 as the team goes for the sweep. 

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Braves Vs. Mariners: Brandon Beachy Dominates, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman Homer In 3-1 Win

Great pitching, solid defense and a couple of monster home runs propelled the Braves to a 3-1 victory on Monday night.

Brandon Beachy was phenomenal once again and allowed just one run over six innings. He struck out nine Mariners and walked just one batter. His fastball was sitting in the mid-90's all night and his changeup had batters looking silly, including Ichiro Suzuki, who struck out twice. Erik Bedard started for Seattle and was excellent as well. He would take back two fastballs if he could, but outside of a few mistakes he had the Braves hitters fooled all night.

Brian McCann got the Braves on the scoreboard in the first inning with a solo-home run to center field that went about fifteen rows deep. The homer was his fourteenth of the season and eighth in the last eighteen games. That'll work. Adam Kennedy tied the game up in the fourth after getting ahold of a 3-1 fastball and sent it over the right field wall to make the score 1-1.

A pitchers duel ensued after the early home runs. Beachy and Bedard would occasionally get themselves into a jam, but they would escape unscathed until the seventh inning. Brian McCann singled to center for his third hit of the game, and after a Chipper Jones popup, Freddie Freeman mashed a 2-run homer to center field. The ball went at least 410 feet, though it wouldn't surprise me if it passed the 420 or 430 mark. He tomahawked a high fastball and the thousands of Braves fans in attendance went nuts.

Atlanta's bullpen was great once again and worked the final three innings. George Sherrill gave up two hits to lead off the seventh inning, but he recorded the first out and Scott Linebrink came in and got Franklin Gutierrez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Eric O'Flaherty surrendered a 2-out walk, but struck out Adam Kennedy to close out the eighth.

Craig Kimbrel came in the ninth and embarrassed Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Miguel Olivo. He threw twelve pitches, ten of them strikes. The Mariners swung at seven of those pitches and made contact with one, which Olivo fouled off. That's dominance.

Braves win 3-1 and pick up a half game on the Phillies in the NL East.

The series will continue Tuesday evening in beautiful Seattle. The pitching matchup is a doozy; Tommy Hanson returns from the DL and will face Michael Pineda, who is likely the AL's Rookie of the Year. First pitch is at 10:10EDT. Don't miss it.

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Braves Vs. Mariners Preview: Tommy Hanson Returns, Atlanta To Face Felix Hernandez And Michael Pineda

After a tough series loss against the Padres this past weekend, the Atlanta Braves will travel north and take on the Seattle Mariners for a 3-game series at Safeco Field. This will be the Braves' first visit to Seattle since 2001 and fans should prepare for some incredible pitching performances. We'll get to the pitching matchups later on, so let's take a look at the Mariners and how they've performed this year.

Seattle currently sits at 39-39 and are 1.5 games back of the division-leading Texas Rangers. They have one of the better starting rotations in starting baseball, but their offense gives the Braves a run for their money in terms of inability to score runs for any given amount of time. If you're looking for a some high scoring games this week, you might not want to watch this one. You've been warned.

Offense:

The Mariners are the worst offensive team in baseball. They don't hit for much power nor do they get on base at a very high average. They steal a few bases, but not enough to make a huge impact on the game on a nightly basis and the club's wRC+ is 79. Seventy nine.

They'll probably score 30 runs this series against the Braves.

No, that's unfair to the pitching staff. But surely our defense and bad luck can account for at least 15 runs to score.

The Mariners are basically a two man team right now and they play just a few feet from each other. Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, who are the first and second basemen, respectively, are both special players having special rookie seasons. They're going to eventually lead Seattle back to the top of the AL West within a few seasons, though they'll need some help. Smoak (.255/.357/.470, 132 wRC+) has been good all year long and Ackley (.300/.364/.567, 153 wRC+) has set the world on fire since his promotion last month. If Atlanta's pitching staff is able to contain these two guys, it's tough to imagine Seattle scoring more than a handful of runs this series. If they don't, well, they could be in for their second straight series loss.

Ichiro Suzuki (.273/.319/.326, 84 wRC+) has been very un-Ichiro like this season, and while it's pure speculation on my part, I think he's injured. The guy has been a 4-6+ fWAR player his entire 10-year career, and while those numbers are inflated a bit by his incredible defense -- he's at -8.4 UZR this year, which brings down his fWAR numbers considerably -- a player simply doesn't decline at the rate Ichiro has. He's just too good for all of his numbers to be down as much as they are this season, and while he isn't getting any younger (he's already 37), he's still in great shape and is capable of playing at least three more years. Something doesn't add up.

Outside of Smoak, Ackley and Ichiro, you'd be hard pressed to find any talented hitters in Seattle's lineup. Brendan Ryan (.251/.314/.307, 78 wRC+), Franklin Gutierrez (.202/.235/.254, 31 wRC+) and Miguel Olivo (.233/.269/.401, 82 wRC+) have all been bad this season and Chone Figgins (.188/.235/.252, 33 wRC+) is the worst player in baseball when you take his contract into account. At least Adam Kennedy (.270/.308/.410, 104 wRC+) and Jack Cust (.216/.358/.319, 100 wRC+) have been somewhat decent this year for the Mariners.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday, 10:10EDT - Brandon Beachy Vs. Erik Bedard (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Brandon Beachy 2-1 9 9 0 0 0 0 50.1 40 19 18 6 14 57 3.22 1.07
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Erik Bedard 4-5 14 14 0 0 0 0 83.0 70 33 27 9 25 80 2.93 1.14


Erik Bedard is finally healthy and he's having a fine season with Seattle. The key to the lefty's resurgence (outside of being able to actually throw a baseball without pain) has been his ability to cut down on walking batters. His BB/9 ratio of 2.71 is very good and he's right on par with his career numbers for strikeouts (8.67 in 2011, 8.76 career). Bedard will throw a fastball with pretty good movement in the low-90's, a big curveball and solid changeup, especially to right-handed batters.

Tuesday, 10:10EDT - (Tommy Hanson Vs. Michael Pineda)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tommy Hanson 8-4 14 14 0 0 0 0 83.1 56 26 23 6 30 89 2.48 1.03
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Michael Pineda 7-4 15 15 0 0 0 0 95.2 69 28 26 7 27 94 2.45 1.00


Tommy Hanson is back! Tommy Hanson is back!

If you're a baseball fan, these are the pitching matchups you live for. Two young, talented, aces-in-the-making will face off against light-hitting offenses in a game that'll likely have at least 20 combined strikeouts. 

Pineda, who is currently the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year, has been pretty great this season. His K/BB ratio of 3.48 is excellent and the big kid throws hard. His fastball sits right around 95mph and his nasty slider has been compared to John Smoltz's. He has been a bit lucky this year (.249 BABIP, 79.8 LOB%), but he's talented and the Braves will have their hands full on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, 3:40EDT - (Derek Lowe Vs. Felix Hernandez)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Derek Lowe 3-6 17 17 0 0 0 0 95.2 96 47 46 7 35 71 4.33 1.37
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Felix Hernandez 8-6 17 17 2 0 0 0 121.1 102 49 43 7 39 118 3.19 1.16


The Braves will face The King on Wednesday afternoon, and it might get ugly. Hernandez, who might just be the best young pitcher in baseball, dominates his opponents and is armed with four plus-pitches. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90's and he uses it to set up his filthy changeup, sharp slider and big curveball. He strikes out a lot of batters (8.75 K/9), doesn't walk many (2.89 BB/9) and doesn't give up many home runs. Good luck, Braves.

In conclusion...

These are two similar teams. The Braves have inconsistent all season long and there's really no way to tell which team is going to show up. Atlanta's pitchers are no slouches, but it's tough to have any faith in the lineup right now. Felix Hernadez and Erik Bedard both have huge games and the Mariners win the series.

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