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Braves Begin Final Homestand Of Season Against Marlins

The Braves are a game behind the Padres in the loss column. Obviously, they need to have a good week in order to make the playoffs. Thankfully, the Giants and Padres play each other this weekend. Ideally, they would beat up on one another or one would dominate the other, giving the Braves an easier road to the playoffs.

Here is a preview of the pitching matchups between the Braves and Marlins taken from Talking Chop. Jair Jurrjens may still pitch Tuesday, but I doubt he does with his injured knee.

Monday, 7:00 ET: 
Tommy Hanson (5.94 IP/S, 3.51 ERA, 3.40 FIP) vs. Alex Sanabia (5.18 IP/S, 3.95 ERA*, 3.55 FIP*)
* numbers as a starter only

Hanson gets the call today instead of Mike Minor, which makes sense since Tommy is on normal rest and he's obviously a better bet right now for an important game. In his last start, Hanson pitched excellently, going 6 shutout innings (with only 2 hits) against the Phillies. Sure, he didn't get any run support, but only Jeff Schultz would blame him for that.

Sanabia is a 22-year-old rookie right-hander. He's pitched pretty well this season despite his youth and only having 2 games of experience in AAA. His biggest strength (both in the minors and the majors) seems to be an ability to limit home runs. Just like Jair Jurrjens, Sanabia has consistently posted low home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rates in his career--5.3% in MLB this year and 5.6% career in the minor leagues, compared to league averages of around 11-12%. While the developers of xFIP would say that is just luck, I believe that it is a skill.

In 2 starts this year against the Braves, Sanabia gave up 6 runs in 9.1 IP. He allowed 13 hits and 4 walks, but did strike out 9.

Tuesday, 7:00 ET: 
(probably) Tim Hudson (6.74 IP/S, 2.80 ERA, 4.03 FIP) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.08 IP/S, 3.60 ERA, 3.29 FIP)

The Braves would like to start Jair Jurrjens on Tuesday, but his knee likely will not cooperate, so they will likely be choosing between Hudson on short rest or Mike Minor on long rest. I'm guessing they'll go with the veteran, even if Huddy has been struggling lately. Starting Hudson on Tuesday would allow him to pitch on regular rest on the last day of the season if needed.

Sanchez, a 26-year-old righty, has had a breakthrough season in 2010, setting career bests in most statistics. He has gotten shellacked in his last two starts, though: 9 runs in 10.1 IP, with 15 hits and 5 walks (against 12 strikeouts). In three starts against the Braves this year, he has put up a 3.93 ERA (8 runs in 18.1 IP) and a 17:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn't been dominant in any of those starts, but he hasn't been terrible in any of them, either.

Wednesday, 4:30 ET: 
(probably) Derek Lowe (5.88 IP/S, 4.07 ERA, 4.01 FIP) vs. Andrew Miller (4.11 IP/S, 8.39 ERA*, 5.57 FIP*)
* numbers as a starter only

Assuming the Braves start Hudson on short rest on Tuesday, they'll presumably go with Lowe (also on short rest) on Wednesday. Lowe has pitched his best baseball of the year in his last 4 starts, posting a 1.08 ERA (3 runs in 25 IP) and a 20:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If he can give us one more start like that, it would be a huge boost.

Miller, a 25-year-old, 6-foot-7 lefty, was a highly touted prospect not that long ago, but he has never had any success in the major leagues. This season has been no different, as he's given up tons of homers (1.52 HR/9), walked lots of guys (6.67 BB/9), and has yet to go more than 5 innings in any of his 6 starts. He's been particularly bad in his last 4 starts, putting up a 12.89 ERA and a 15:12 walk-to-strikeout ratio, not to mention 31 hits allowed in 14.2 IP.

In two appearances (one start and one long-relief outing) against the Braves this year, Miller has given up 5 runs (4 earned) in 9 innings, with a 7:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.


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