*A quick mea culpa before I begin the preview: The Mets were 4-2 in the games Dillion Gee started against the Braves last season, Gee went 2-1 in those starts. With that mistake buried and forgotten, here is the preview for the weekend series:
After a successful 5-1 season opening home-stand, the Braves pack up and head to the massive air conditioned banking institution located in the Arizona desert. Both Arizona and Atlanta sit second in their respective divisions with records of 7-5, but each team is headed in different directions. The Braves have caught fire, going 7-2, after starting the season 0-3. Alternatively, the Diamondbacks have gone 3-5 after winning their first four games of the season.
The key contrast between the two ball clubs is that the Braves are hitting better with runners in scoring position. In the last seven games, Arizona actually has one more hit than Atlanta, both have 8 homers, yet the Braves are leading the NL with 41 RBI's, 10 more than the D-Backs. Furthermore, Atlanta's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .31 points higher at .311.
The Bravos are also fortunate to catch Arizona at a time where they have slugging center-fielder Chris Young on the 15-day disabled list for a right shoulder contusion and All-Star right-fielder Justin Upton is day-to-day with soreness in his left thumb; ask David Wright about thumbs.
Thursday: LHP Mike Minor (1-1, 4.38 ERA) vs RHP Josh Collmenter (0-0, 12.86 ERA)
As my cohort Nick wrote, "Minor's display Saturday evening was indeed a sight for sore eyes." Minor single-handedly lit a fire under the starting rotation with his 2-hit performance. In his two career starts against the Diamondbacks, Minor is 1-0 with a total of 8 runs earned.
After posting a 10-10, 3.38 ERA line in his first season at the major league level, Josh Collmenter has hit a wall. The youngster from Homer, Michigan has cattered to his hometowns name by allowing home-runs in his first two outings, this off the heels of a spring where he posted a 0-4 9.95 ERA mark. Collmenter could be fighting to stay in the show.
Friday: RHP Brandon Beachy (1-1, 0.75 ERA) vs RHP Trevor Cahill (1-0, 1.35 ERA)
Brandon Beachy was the first Braves pitcher to catch "Minor-i-tis." Beachy allowed 1 unearned run on 3 hits and 2 free-passes, with 6 K's in 7 strong innings worked. Brandon was able to get to the seventh inning by breezing through his last four innings pitched, needing only 46 pitches to get the job done.
After a scabrous start in his first outing, where gave up 6 walks, Trevor Cahill pitched impressively in his second. The Oceanside, California native tossed 7.1 innings of 4 hit ball with 6 strikeouts. So far in the season, Cahill's ground-ball rate is at 67%.
Saturday: RHP Tommy Hanson (1-2, 3.71 ERA) vs LHP Joe Saunders (1-0, 0.64 ERA)
Hanson was the second Atlanta hurler to come down with a case of "Minor-i-tis." In his last outing versus the Mets, Tommy retired 10 straight batters and surrendered just one hit before allowing Ruben Tejada to double off of a hanging breaking pitch which hit the left field wall with one out in the sixth inning. Hanson can attribute his success in his last start to the increase in the velocity of his heater. Tommy was above 90 MPH the entire game, hitting 92 at times; Hanson averages 92 MPH for his career.
Joe Saunders marks the eighth left-handed pitcher the Braves will face so far. Saunders has enjoyed a stellar start to his campaign thus far, pitching 7 innings in each start with a 1.00 WHIP. The Braves hitters were 7-21 off of Saunders last season, yet they were only able to drive in one run.
Sunday: RHP Randall Delgado (2-0, 4.35 ERA) vs RHP Ian Kennedy (2-0, 3.86 ERA)
Thus far, rookie Randall Delgado is the new Jorge Sosa this season. When Sosa was with the Braves, he earned the nickname "Houdini" for his ability to pitch an ugly game, usually five innings, and come out with victory. Delgado is getting by on his fastball and change-up, which he throws 68% and 23% respectively; he is just lucky there is a 10 MPH difference between the two pitches. He will need to discover a third pitch fast or Delgado could see Kris Medlin take his place.
Though he was roughed up in his previous outing versus the Pirates, allowing eight hits and four runs through six innings, Ian Kennedy is unquestionably the D-Backs best pitcher. The Huntington Beach, California native has 11 K's in 13.1 innings pitched against the Bravos in his career.