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Braves And Padres, The Two Best Teams In The NL Set To Face Off

The Braves will face a tough test when they go up against the Padres for three games at Turner Field. The Braves have built up the largest division lead in baseball, but there's still too much time to consider it a safe lead by any means. Talking Chop previews the pitching matchups:

Tuesday: 7:10 EST: Wade LeBlanc (4-7, 3.30 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 4.69 xFIP) vs. Jair Jurrjens (2-3, 4.75 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 5.14 xFIP)
The Braves have won all three of Jair Jurrjens' starts since he returned from the DL. He allowed one run in his first start, just two hits in his second start, and just one run again in his third, so it seems like we are seeing the Jair we are used to over the past few seasons rather than the early 2010 version. His opponent, Wade LeBlanc, allows a lot of men on base and gives up a lot of fly balls (31.6 %, league average is 28.4%). LeBlanc has been below average this year on the mound this season, and the Braves should have some success against him tonight.

Wednesday: 7:10 EST: Jon Garland (9-6, 3.45 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 4.44 xFIP) vs. Tommy Hanson (4.19 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 4.01 xFIP)
Hanson has stated that he is struggling to find consistency. Batted balls keep landing for hits and that will obviously be frustrating for a pitcher. I doubt Tommy looks at many advanced metrics, but his BABIP being the second highest in the NL at .349, behind only Dan Haren, is likely a big reason for his results seeming poor. His strikeouts are up and his walks are down, but one thing I have noticed is that his fastball is moving less, which could be a reason for the increased amount of hits allowed this year. Last year his fastball averaged -6.1 inches of horizontal movement and this year it is averaging just -5.4 inches. This means the tailing action has decreased with his increased velocity (92.2 mph in '09 and 93.2 mph in '10). It's not a tremendous difference in movement, but it is a small one that could be making a difference. Garland is another below average pitcher and walks a ton of batters, which usually means good things for the Braves as they lead the NL in walks by a large margin. These are the types of pitchers the Braves have to score on.

Thursday: 1:05 EST: Clayton Richard (7-4, 3.53 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 4.00 xFIP) vs. Tim Hudson (9-5, 2.60 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 4.25 xFIP)
Richard is the best starter in the Padres rotation with Mat Latos on the shelf. Richard strikes out a bit more batters than your average pitcher, but only really has a plus fastball. His fastball is only thrown in the low 90's, but it generates a lot of movement (7.1 inches horizontally). He walks as many as your average pitcher and has a normal BABIP at .302. Richard is a bit above average but as a lefty going against the Braves, you can expect him to perform a bit better. This is definitely the best pitching matchup of the series, and on paper, it should be the game that gives the Braves the most trouble.

Visit Talking Chop for a full preview of the series.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.