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Astros Vs. Braves: Atlanta Hosts Two-Game Set Before Traveling West

Following an eventful weekend series in which the Braves hosted the Civil Rights Game and took two of three from the Phillies, Atlanta dials things down a notch with a quick two-game set against the Astros before heading West.

By taking two of three from the Phillies, the Braves are now 3.5 games behind them in the NL East. Atlanta is also now 1.5 games behind the Marlins for second. The Braves are 3-3 on the current homestand.

The Astros continue to suffer through hard times, in the process of selling the team while sitting in last in the NL Central at 15-25. They are 5-8 in May, including dropping two of three to the Mets at home in their most recent series.

Monday, May 16 - 7:10 (Peachtree TV/Fox Sports South)
Brett Myers (50.1 IP, 5.01 ERA, 5.20 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 3.4 BB/9, 6.79 K/9, 42 GB%, 7.4 SwStr%)
(47.2 FB%, 22.4 SL%, 21 CB%, 9.4 CH%; 44.8 Swing%, 82.8 Contact%)
vs.
Tommy Hanson (46.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 2.51 BB/9, 8.49 K/9, 46 GB%, 8.6 SwStr%)
(56.7 FB%, 21.4 SL%, 14.9 CB%, 6.9 CH%; 43 Swing%, 79.4 Contact%)

The former Phillies pitcher is suffering from four terrible outings in his last four starts. Otherwise, he has a pretty solid ERA. Myers has allowed six runs, six runs, five runs and four runs in his last four outings, including three straight losses by scores that were not close. Myers has seen a significant rise in walks and home runs while having a decrease in ground balls. He's throwing the same pitches in the same spots, but he's giving up slightly more contact and receiving far fewer swinging strikes. Myers is hittable right now and the Braves need to take advantage.

Hanson hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since April 17, spanning four starts. His most recent was one run in 5.2 innings against the Nationals, and while he threw a ton of pitches without his best command, he still held them to just five hits. Hanson's zone contact rate is down 4%, which has been a big reason for the increase in strikeouts.

Tuesday, May 17 - 1:05 (SportSouth)
Wandy Rodriguez (52 IP, 3.98 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.1 K/9, 42.5 GB%, 7.8 SwStr%)
(53.8 FB%, 33.6 CB%, 12.6 CH%; 45.1 Swing%, 82.5 Contact%)
vs.
Derek Lowe (50.2 IP, 3.73 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 3.07 xFIP, 3.02 BB/9, 8.35 K/9, 56.9 GB%, 9.9 SwStr%)
(46.7 FB%, 27.1 SL%, 16.2 CH%, 10 CT%; 39.7 Swing%, 74.6 Contact%)

Rodriguez is having a good season so far, though it's just slightly off from his usual numbers. He has posted a walk per nine much lower than his career average of 3.16, but that has also come with a big drop in strikeouts. His home runs are up and ground balls are down. Rodriguez always lives with a line drive rate over 20%, which is surprising considering the solid numbers he always posts. Perhaps concerning to the Astros is an outside contact rate that is increasing over the past four years, currently sitting at 71.7%. As a result, his K/9 has steadily dropped the last four years. He may be fine now, but it's a trend that could signal a steep drop off within a few years as he reaches the mid-30s.

At first glance, Lowe's last outing against the Nationals seems ugly due to five runs allowed and two home runs, but he gave up just five hits and struck out six over six innings while inducing 13 ground balls and just four fly balls. It's the most strikeouts for Lowe in his last three starts, and he returned to double digit ground ball numbers for just the second time in six starts.

Astros Bullpen:
The Houston bullpen is among the worst in the National League, sporting a 5.06 ERA and 4.07 FIP, both next to last in the league. Mark Melancon took the closing role from Brandon Lyon after Lyon posted a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings. Melancon has a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings. Aside from him, Jeff Fulchino and Wilton Lopez are the only Astros relievers with ERA's under four. Everything else is ugly and not worth mentioning.

Projected Astros Lineup:
1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Clint Barmes, SS
3. Hunter Pence, RF
4. Carlos Lee, LF
5. Brett Wallace, 1B
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. Bill Hall, 2B
8. Humberto Quintero, C

The Astros are middle of the pack in team wOBA at .318, as well as fWAR at 3.9. Bourn is a speedy leadoff hitter with no better than average on-base ability. Clint Barmes and Angel Sanchez swap out at shortstop, but neither is doing anything to wow. Hunter Pence continues to post good numbers, while Carlos Lee continues to be a gaping hole at cleanup. Brett Wallace has had perhaps the best season for Houston so far, hitting .333/.410/.468. Bill Hall has been a terrible addition, Chris Johnson has four walks this year and Humberto Quintero is nothing more than a defensive catcher.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Astros fans check out Crawfish Boxes.

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