Dodgers Braves Series Preview

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Dodgers Braves Series Preview

The Atlanta Braves travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in a 4 game series beginning Monday. Kenny Shulsen at Lasordas Lair and Bob Horton of the Tomahawk Take have teamed up to bring you an in-depth look at the series. We’ll look at the pitching matchups, hot/cold players, an injury report and finish with a 6 pack of questions, 3 from each team.

Atlanta Braves:

2011 Record: 7-9, 4th in N.L. East (4.0 GB)

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Los Angeles Dodgers:

2011 Record: 7-9, 4th in N.L. West (5.5 GB)

Pitching Matchups:

April 18: Tim Hudson 2-1 3.48 ERA vs. Ted Lilly 0-2 6.00 ERA, 10:10 PM ET

Lilly let a lead get away in his last start in San Francisco, where he allowed a pair of sixth-inning homers. Lilly hasn’t been sharp since midway through Spring Training and many Dodger fans are wondering why the 35 year old was signed to a 3 year 33 million dollar deal in the off season.

Hudson continues to be the most dependable of the Braves starters, relying on his sinker to get a ton of grounders.  Hudson is 6-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 12 career starts against the Dodgers, including a 1-0 record with a 1.80 ERA in two last seasons.

April 19: Brandon Beachy 0-1 5.19 ERA vs. Hiroki Kuroda 2-1 3.48 ERA, 10:10 PM ET

Kuroda had his worst start of the season one outing removed from falling one out shy of a shutout, which raises the question whether 8 2/3 innings took something out of him. Whatever the reason, it was a dramatic contrast from good to bad.

Beachy has exhibited the quality stuff that allowed him to win the fifth starter’s job in the pre-season, but has also shown the inconsistency you’d expect from a rookie.  He’s tough on a team that’s seeing him for the first time, flashing both a low to mid 90’s fastball and quality off-speed stuff.

April 20: Derek Lowe 2-2 1.82 ERA vs. Jon Garland 0-1 11.25 ERA, 10:10 PM ET

Garland looked rusty and took a beating against the Cardinals in his 2011 season debut. Garland gave up 9 hits in only 4 innings of work

Lowe has pitched better in the last month of last year and the first month of this season than at any time in his Braves tenure.  He has rediscovered his slider, which makes his 88-90 sinker all the more effective.  He has pitched much better than his 2-2 record would indicate.

April 21: Jair Jurrjens 1-0 0.00 ERA vs. Clayton Kershaw 2-2 2.96 ERA, 3:10 PM ET

Kershaw had his worst outing of the season Saturday vs. the Cardinals. He gave up 6 hits, 5 walks and 5 earned runs in only 5 innings of work. After a grueling 3rd inning where he threw 30 pitches, he came back and threw 40 in the 4th inning.

Jurrjens threw seven shutout innings in his first outing of the year, coming off the DL to throw 100 pitches.  His low 90’s fastball features good late movement.  That, combined with outstanding location, has made him a consistently good pitcher in his Braves career.

Who’s Hot

Los Angeles: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier

Matt Kemp, whose walk-off homer Sunday ended the Dodgers 5 game losing streak, and Andre Ehtier are both off to terrific starts. Ethier is in the midst of an MLB best 14 game hitting streak and Kemp leads the majors in batting.

Atlanta: Chipper Jones, Brian McCann

Chipper is swinging the bat better than he has in the past two to three years, hitting over .300 with power.  McCann has batted over .350 for almost the whole season to date, but only recently has his power started to come around.

Who’s Cold

Los Angeles: Just about everyone else, Ownership and Dodger fans.

Dodger fans are growing anxious about James Loney and Juan Uribe in particular. Both are hitting well below the ‘Mendoza Line’ and Loney in particular looks completely lost at the plate. Owner Frank McCourt had to borrow $30 million from Fox this week just to make payroll for April, he has racked up close to $500 million in debt since he took over in 2004 and with attendance down the ownership situation is in big trouble. Dodger attendance is way down. They had their lowest Friday night attendance in over 8 years, and Sunday they were under 30,000 in paid attendance, they didn’t have a single game last year below 30 K.

Atlanta:

Braves: Just about everyone else.  The team has hit for power, averaging a home run per game, but that’s about it.  The team batting average has hovered in the .220’s most of the season.  While they have also hit for a good average with runners in scoring position, unfortunately they almost never have any  runners in scoring position.

Injuries:

Dodgers:

15-day DL: Vicente Padilla began a rehab start Sunday and will throw again Tuesday. If all goes well he will be activated Thursday. Dioner Navarro (who will be out until the middle of May) and Jay Gibbons (Contact lens problems no date set for his return). This list speaks to how weak the Dodgers bench is right now that people like Jay Gibbons and Dioner Navarro are on the DL and the team is actually hoping they return, when really neither has been a productive major leaguer for several years. Rafael Furcal is out 6 weeks with a broken thumb after sliding head first into 3rd base against the Giants.

Braves:

15-day DL:

Peter Moylan was placed on the DL on Saturday with lower back problems.  He is expected to have an MRI very shortly to discover the cause of his pain.  Until then, look for Scott Linebrink to pick up the majority of the middle-innings burden.

Series Six-Pack: Six Dodgers/Braves Questions

We’ll be asking the opposing team’s writer 3 questions regarding what to expect from each team in an effort to get more information to you, the readers, look for our answers to be posted on here and on their site as well. As always, anything that was covered by either site is an invitation for any kind of feedback from you in the comments section below!

Dodgers Questions from Bob Horton, lead writer at Tomahawk Take:

1. Question? What’s the latest on the McCourt’s, and what impact has that had on the team?

Kenny: It’s ugly and it’s not going to better anytime soon. Frank had to borrow $30 million from Fox last week to cover April’s payroll. At this point there is no word on what they are going to do for May. The impact is that the Dodgers roster consists of a handful of good core players and a bunch of journeymen who are signed to 1 year deals to try and fill the gaps until the next batch of prospects are ready. They have turned over almost half of their roster each of the last 2 years. The Dodgers have also had to backload several terrible contracts. For example they STILL owe Andruw Jones $3,375,000 each year through 2014, they are paying him more than the team he plays for. They owe Manny $20 million over the next 3 years, and Juan Pierre $6 million this year and next. These terrible contracts, and the massive debt load the owner has accumulated, have really hindered the Dodgers ability to add quality pieces around Ethier and Kemp.

2. Question What’s the biggest reason for the slow start by the team?

Kenny: They are an average team at best. They have decent pitching and aside from Ethier and Kemp their offense if terrible. For some reason Mattingly continues to give Aaron Miles, a career journeyman who’s hitting .226, playing time at second base, instead of prospect Ivan De Jesus Jr. who is supposed to be the second baseman of the future. The number 5, 6, and 7 hitters (James Loney, Juan Uribe, and Rod Barajas) are hitting .150, .154, and .188, respectively. The hope is they call up prospect Jerry Sands, who is destroying AAA pitching and can play LF and 1B, and stick De Jesus at second and see what the young kids can do, they certainly couldn’t be worse than the production they are currently getting.

3. Question What’s the latest on Furcal’s injury?

Kenny: He is supposed to be out 6 weeks with the broken thumb. He was off to a slow start and is a vital piece of the offense, when he gets on base the offense goes well, but he has been injured a lot during his Dodger career. The silver lining is Furcal had an option in his contract that guaranteed him $13 million next year if he reached 600 plate appearances, he almost certainly will not hit that, and the short stop of the future Dee Gordon (son of Tom Gordon) is also doing really well at AAA. So not having to guarantee $13 million to a broken down Furcal in 2012 should be a good thing. 37 year old Jamey Carroll has filled in quite well in Furcal’s absence, but that speaks to the weakness of the lineup when Carroll is your 3rd best offensive threat.

Braves Questions from Kenny at Lasordas Lair

1. What in the hell is going on with Jason Heyward and Fredi Gonzalez?

Bob: Really, nothing.  Basically, the SABR crowd wants Fredi to bat Jason second instead of sixth.  Fredi thinks the SABR group doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and they return the favor!  Stay tuned, as Heyward did bat second on Sunday, though it was only because McLouth was given the day off.

2. How have rookies Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel looked so far?

Bob: Kimbrell has been lights out; we haven’t missed Wagner at all, and that’s saying a lot.  Freeman has flashed incredible leather in the field, but has started out slow at the plate.  He did the same thing at AAA last year, then caught fire and hit over .310 on the season.  He recently hit his first homer and squared up three balls just before that.  I think he’ll be fine.

3. Are there any prospects that fans should keep an eye on who could contribute for the Braves as the season goes on?

Bob: Honestly, who knows?  The best prospects are all pitchers.  Look for Mike Minor to return to the rotation at some point this year.  Also, Stephen Marek is a highly touted reliever whom I believe is better than two of our current crop (especially better than Dodger retread George Sherrill).  Finally, you might see uber-prospect Julio Tehran before the end of the year, although next year is more likely.

Bob thanks for your input, this has the makings of a low scoring series. FYI Lasorda’s Lair will be at Dodger Stadium for the games on Wednesday and Thursday. The Dodgers actually give out press credentials to one blogger for each home game, meaning I will be in the press box and clubhouse for pre and post-game manager interviews, as well as the clubhouse trying to snag some quotes from the players. If you have any questions or in person observations for either the Dodgers or Braves you would like me to ask/answer please post them and I’ll do my best to accommodate you. I should also have some great video and photos of the places in Dodger Stadium the public doesn’t get to see.

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Tags: Aaron Miles Andre Ethier Atlanta Braves Clayton Kershaw Dee Gordon Derek Lowe Dioner Navarro Don Mattingly Frank McCourt Hiroki Kuroda Ivan De Jesus Jr James Loney Jamey Carroll Jay Gibbons Jerry Sands Jon Garland Juan Pierre Juan Uribe Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Ramirez Matt Kemp Rafael Furcal Rod Barajas Ted Lilly Vicente Padilla

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