After a tough weekend in New York, the Atlanta Braves will take on the Florida Marlins for three games. Fortunately for Atlanta, the Marlins are playing their worst baseball of the season.
Florida has now lost five in a row and just placed their best player, Hanley Ramirez, on the disabled list. Let's take a look at their team:
Despite Hanley Ramirez struggling for most of the season, they've still been a solid club offensively. Mike Stanton (.258/.345/.553, .385 wOBA, 145 wRC+) is having a phenomenal season and his power truly is limitless. After a somewhat surprising rookie season, Gaby Sanchez (.316/.388/.511, 392 wOBA, 147 wRC+) is experiencing an even better sophomore year. He's battled injuries this year, but outfielder Logan Morrison (.303/.392/.535, .400 wOBA, 153 wRC+) is a force whenever he's in the lineup and 3rd baseman Greg Dobbs (.338/.377/.458, .365 wOBA, 129 wRC+) has been a surprising addition to their lineup.
The five players listed above have carried the team offensively, though watch out for outfielder Chris Coghlan. He may be in a slump (.239/.300/.372, .289 wOBA, 79 wRC+), but he's a Braves Killer and always saves his best for Atlanta. Former-Brave Omar Infante (.262/.303/.317, .278 wOBA, 69 wRC+) has not played well since being traded away last December. Cather Joe Buck can supply a little power and Emilio Bonafacio, Hanley Ramirez's replacement, brings a lot of speed to the diamond.
Tommy Hanson Vs. Brad Hand - Tuesday, 7:10EDT (SportsSouth)
Hanson: 6-4, 70.1 IP, 8.83 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, .245 BABIP, 44.5 GB%, 2.82 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR
This will be the first start of Brad Hand's career in the Major Leagues. The 21-year old lefty has made just 12 starts above High-A ball and features a low-90's fastball, curveball, and changeup. He'll likely have jitters in the early going and the Braves will want to hit him early and often if they hope to avoid embarrassment.
Derek Lowe Vs. Ricky Nolasco - Wednesday, 7:10EDT (SportsSouth)
Lowe: 3-4, 73.0 IP, 7.27 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, .301 BABIP, 56.2 GB%, 4.07 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, 1.1 fWAR
Nolasco: 4-1, 79.0 IP, 7.41 K/9, 1.82BB/9, .324 BABIP, 41.9 GB%, 3.99 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR
Ricky Nolasco is a really good pitcher. He throws a ton of quality innings for the Marlins, strikes a few guys out, doesn't walk anyone, and doesn't allow home runs to beat him. He predominately throws a fastball which sits right around 90mph and has developed a mid-80's cutter which he throws off his fastball. A big curveball is his out-pitch to left-handed batters and he's recently worked in a split finger fastball which he usually uses in ground ball situations.
Bottom line, Nolasco can really pitch and he's having a great 2011 season. With the Braves struggles at the plate and the injuries they've sustained, it'll be a tough game on Wednesday.
Jair Jurrjens Vs. Chris Volstad - Thursday, 7:10EDT (SportsSouth)
Jurrjens - 7-2, 72.0 IP, 5.50 K/9, 1.38 BB/9, .266 BABIP, 45.0 GB%, 1.75 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, 1.8 fWAR
Volstad - 2-5, 60.1 IP, 6.41 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, .308 BABIP, 47.2 GB%, 5.67 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 3.66, 0.2 fWAR
At first glance it appears that Volstad is a pretty bad pitcher. Once you look a little deeper, you'll see that he's been a solid No. 5 starter and always seems to save his best for the Braves. He throws a low-90's fastball more than half of the time, a low-80's slider which is his out-pitch, a decent change-up that he'll use against a tough left-handed batter and an occasional curveball.
The Braves have a big advantage in this one with Jurrjens on the mound, but we'll see how the series finale plays out.
The Braves need to start playing better baseball. They have a chance to take sole possession of the NL East with a series victory and the Marlins are playing their worst baseball of the year. They miss their two stars, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, and perhaps a reunion in Florida is all it takes to get Dan Uggla and our stumbling offense going once again.
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