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Braves vs. Blue Jays Preview: Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar Return To Turner Field

The Braves play their second interleague series of the season at Turner Field this weekend. Andrelton Simmons will make his home debut.

Presswire

The Atlanta Braves will play their second interleague series of the season this weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field. The Jays enter with a solid record of 30-27, but are in fourth place in a very difficult AL East.

They currently rank 5th in baseball in runs scored, although their home ballpark does wonders for Toronto's offensive numbers. And while their lineup may score runs, their pitching staff as a whole has been pretty bad.

The biggest story to watch for in Atlanta this weekend will be the return of Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar. Both of these middle infielders were once believed to be the second baseman and shortstop of the future for the Braves, but neither worked out for one reason or another.

Johnson has gotten off to a very nice season in 2012 and is hitting to the tune of .251/.348/.412 with a wOBA of .340. Escobar has not done much offensively since leaving the Braves -- his wOBA of .283 this season is pretty bad -- but he remains one of the better defensive shortstops in the game.

The Blue Jays rank second in all of baseball in home runs hit with 81 as a team, and they are led by Edwin Encarnacion (17) and Jose Bautista (15). Young third baseman Brett Lawrie has a lot of talent, but he is yet to do much of anything at the plate.

Toronto steals their fair share of bases when they have runners on, but the club features one of the lower on-base percentages in the American League.

This is a talented Jays team capable of scoring runs in a hurry, but their mediocre pitching staff and the stiff competition in the AL East will likely send them to another fourth or fifth place finish at the end of the year.

Pitching Matchups & Start Times:

Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET - Brandon Beachy (5-3, 1.87 ERA, 3.34 FIP) vs. Kyle Drabek (4-6, 4.35 ERA, 5.46 FIP)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. - Tommy Hanson (6-4, 3.71 ERA, 4.17 FIP) vs. Drew Hutchison (5-2, 4.35 ERA, 4.28 FIP)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. - Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83 ERA, 3.12 FIP) vs. Ricky Romero (7-1, 4.02 ERA, 4.76 FIP)

For more on the Braves check out Talking Chop.

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