Atlanta Braves: The week ahead
JUL 09, 2012 8:04a ET
With centerfielder Michael Bourn’s late addition to the National League All-Star roster over the weekend – he replaces injured Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond – the Braves will feature guys all over Tuesday’s All-Star festivities: two infielders, an outfielder and one of the best closers in the game.
It also will give teams a stint of rest before heading into the second half of the season, which looks to provide a tight division race in the N.L. East, with the upstart Washington Nationals leading the Braves, New York Mets (Atlanta’s sole opponent this week) and, to a lesser extent, the Miami Marlins. It feels strange to see the Philadelphia Phillies at the bottom of that list, but Atlanta completed its three-game sweep of the division rival on Sunday and will cross its collective fingers that that momentum will carry into the months of August, September and October.
Tuesday: MLB All-Star Game, 8:00 p.m. (FOX)
Friday: New York Mets at Atlanta, 7:35 p.m. (FOX Sports South, Peachtree TV); Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.10 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.56 ERA)
Saturday: New York Mets at Atlanta, 4:05 p.m. (FOX); R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.40 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (10-5, 3.71 ERA)
Sunday: New York Mets at Atlanta, 1:35 p.m. (FOX Sports South) Jonathon Niese (7-4, 3.73 ERA) vs. TBA
Look out for:
The race for the pennant starts here. The Braves come off the All-Star break just a half game up on the Mets — and four games behind the division-leading Nationals — and this series could be a significant step out of the gate. Atlanta was hitting on all cylinders heading into the break, literally, and if Brian McCann, who has homered in four consecutive games, can officially put a rather quiet first half behind him then this lineup immediately becomes much more dangerous. The team boasts the best outfield in baseball so far in 2012, and if McCann, Freddie Freeman and All-Stars Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones round out the lineup in the same fashion as they have during the Braves’ current four-game winning streak, perhaps not even the top of the Mets rotation can slow them down.
But that’s not a promise. The Braves will surely face unpredictable and occasionally un-hittable (or one-hittable) knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the expected starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game. His 12-1 record is no joke. Dickey proved to be one of the five best pitchers in baseball during the first half of the season with his unheard of 80-mile-per-hour knuckler—he’s averaging 9.23 strikeouts per nine innings and his 120 innings pitched has been a Godsend for manager Terry Collins’ bullpen. Following up Dickey will likely be some combination of Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and, perhaps, Johan Santana.
Brian McCann took his first All-Star absence to heart by hitting home runs in four-consecutive games, a streak that is still alive entering the Mets series. McCann is 8-for-16 (.500) in his last five games played—all Atlanta wins—adding on a whopping nine RBIs. His .882 slugging percentage in the month of July leads all of baseball ... It would have been a travesty if Michael Bourn had not made the All-Star roster, especially in the wake of the underwhelming Jay Bruce, and his current hot streak proves why. Bourn sprinted into the All-Star break by reaching base in 16 of his 35 July plate appearances (.485 OBP) ... Jair Jurrjens is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last four starts … The omnipresent Chipper Jones is hitting .500 in the month of July (11-for-22) … Gee has pitched well for the Mets of late, collecting a 2-2 record over his last four starts with just a 3.08 ERA … Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has hit his stride a bit this month, hitting .478 with five RBIs in seven games … All-Star third baseman David Wright leads the Mets with nine RBIs in July – tied for third-most in the National League.
One home run does not assure that Dan Uggla has finally broken out of his recent slump. The All-Star second baseman has still collected just 10 hits over the past month (.114), with his last multi-hit game coming on June 5. With just two home runs over that same stretch, Uggla limps into the break hoping his final game of the first half will help right the ship … Andrelton Simmons was hitting just .160 in 29 plate appearances in the month of July, but a broken hand will sideline him for the next few weeks after his headfirst slide into second base on Sunday … Mets first baseman Ike Davis has been awful this month, collecting a meager .182 on-base percentage in 22 plate appearances to accompany his underwhelming fielding and baserunning … If possible, outfielder Lucas Duda has been worse than Davis, hitting just .160 in 29 plate appearances.
Atlanta: Andrelton Simmons (fractured right hand, out 4-6 weeks); Jonny Venters (elbow, placed on 15-day DL); Tim Hudson (day-to-day, ankle);
New York: Jason Bay (concussion, 7-day DL); Frank Francisco (back, 15-day DL); Johan Santana (ankle, day-to-day)
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