ATLANTA - APRIL 18: Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves hits against the New York Mets at Turner Field on April 18, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Diamondbacks will be without one All-Star this weekend and possibly another. Will that be enough to change the Braves' recent history of poor play in Phoenix?
As someone who has been watching the Braves play at Chase Field for the last decade or so, I can tell you the club seemingly always saves their worst baseball of the season for the Diamondbacks. Whether it be Brian McCann getting run over at the plate, the bullpen collapsing in the late innings or Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward colliding in the outfield, you can be assured that the Braves will run into some bad luck in the deserts of Arizona.
Will this finally be the season the team wakes up and starts playing well out west? We'll get a pretty good idea of that this weekend.
In what should be a huge break for Atlanta in the four-game series that will begin on Thursday, center fielder Chris Young will not play due to a shoulder injury. Young has arguably had the strong start of anyone in baseball other than Matt Kemp and is a strong defender in a spacious outfield. Justin Upton has also been battling a thumb injury, one that has held him out of the lineup the last few games. No word on whether or not he will head to the disabled list, but it is pretty safe to say the NL MVP candidate will not be at full strength this weekend if he plays.
Despite these two key injuries, the Diamondbacks are still a very good team. Catcher Miguel Montero is among the best in the game, and is off to a very strong start, batting .270 thus far with an OPS of .804. Second baseman Aaron Hill and third baseman Ryan Roberts are both solid options for manager Kirk Gibson in the lower-half of his lineup.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt might have more raw power than anyone in baseball, although making consistent contact has always been an issue for him throughout his young career. Jason Kubel signed with the club in the offseason and is yet to do much of anything, posting an OPS of just .579 to this point. Gerardo Parra is typically a fourth outfielder for the club, but he will likely get some playing time in center field this weekend without Young available.
The Diamondbacks are a good team, although they really struggled to score runs against the Pirates without Upton and Young in the lineup. The Braves always seem to fall apart in Phoenix and this will not be an easy series to win, but taking more than two games is certainly doable. Other than Sunday, Atlanta seems to have the advantage in the pitching matchups.