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Braves Host Weekend Set With Marlins

This post was written by our own Ben Duronio, who's experiencing technical difficulties:

The Braves come back to Atlanta where they have a 44-17 record, the best in the Majors, to play the Florida Marlins for three games. Craig Kimbrel has joined the big club as Mike Minor was optioned to the GCL Braves team to get some work and will be recalled for his start on Tuesday.

The Braves are sending Tommy Hanson tonight and will square off against right-hander Chris Volstad. Here is a short preview from pacgnosis at Talking Chop:

Pitching Matchups

Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET: Tommy Hanson (5.88 IP/S, 3.53 ERA, 3.12 FIP) vs. Chris Volstad (5.68 IP/S, 4.82 ERA, 4.44 FIP)

Big Red has been great this year; he's improved all of his controllable peripherals, though his ERA doesn't show it. He actually has a slightly better FIP than the much-more-ballyhooed Ubaldo Jimenez.

Other than the fact that Ubaldo's pitched a lot more innings, I might argue that Tommy has been just as good. It's funny how two guys who've pitched just about as well as each other have such widely differing won-lost records. No, wait. It's not funny, it's just dumb. I have a hard time coming up with anything interesting about Volstad. He's just kind of a generic 4th starter. He's like Derek Lowe without all the ground balls. In other words, he's not great, and we ought to be able to hit him.

Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET: Tim Hudson (6.83 IP/S, 2.28 ERA, 64.6% GB%) vs. Ricky Nolasco (6.23 IP/S, 4.22 ERA, 3.75 FIP)

I have just one thing to say to Huddy right now: Please, for the love of Smoltz, shave your beard! Not only does it look terrible, but I think it's messing with your ground-ball mojo.

As for Nolasco, he's been his usually self this year: dependable, with lots of strikeouts (8.50 per 9 innings) and hardly any walks (only 1.73 per 9), but with a penchant for getting hit hard at times (including a 1.33 HR/9 innings mark). He reminds me a lot of a less dominant Curt Schilling--big and beefy, with the tendency to give up lots of homers but not many walks. He's coming off two straight scoreless outings in which he struck out 17 men to only 2 walks; of course, he only made it through 6 innings each time, and it was against the Pirates and Nationals.

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET: Derek Lowe (5.93 IP/S, 4.33 ERA, 4.22 FIP) vs. Josh Johnson (6.60 IP/S, 2.36 ERA, 2.52 FIP)

Lowe's got his work cut out for him in this one, because I doubt the Braves are going to score many runs off of Josh Johnson. Johnson has matured into a straight-up ace. He does everything well--strike dudes out (8.70 K/9), not walk many (2.20 BB/9), keep the ball in the yard (a staggeringly low 0.37 HR/9), go deep into games, etc. If it weren't for Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright throwing so many more innings, he'd be my pick for the NL Cy Young so far. Still, he's been pretty mortal lately, putting up a 5.06 ERA in his last 6 starts. Maybe the Braves are catching him at the right time.

The Braves' division lead now stands at three, so let's hope they can extend that and create some breathing room this weekend. As always, you can check out the open threads for each game over at Talking Chop.

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