For the first time in eight years, the Braves make the trip north to Seattle, taking on the Mariners for three games beginning tonight.
Like many, this was a dream World Series matchup in 1995, but the Mariners never made it out of the ALCS, getting eliminated by the Indians before the Braves took them down in 6.
These were two organizations in the 90’s, the Mariners a little later in the decade, that did nothing but win on the ballfield. Both organizations moved into new parks, the Braves into Turner Field in 1996 and the Mariners, from the Kingdome into Safeco Field in 1999.
But put those dreams in the rear-view mirror, the only player remaining on those rosters is.. Chipper Jones.
The Braves send rookie Brandon Beachy to the mound for the opener, as he will go opposite Eric Bedard.
Over his past six starts, Beachy is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA. He saw time on the disabled list and returned Wednesday to strike out 11 Blue Jays in 6 innings in his return to the mound.
In his last 10 starts, Bedard is 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA, limiting opposing batters to a .194 batting average. But like Felix Hernandez last year, the Mariners are failing to provide Bedard with sufficient run support. The lefty has gotten fewer than five runs of support in 13 of his 14 starts.
Tuesday’s matchup features Tommy Hanson’s return to the mound after a stint on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Michael Pineda gets the start for Seattle.
Hanson’s last start came in Houston June 12. He went 7 innings, allowing one run on three hits. The highlight to that day, aside from a 4-1 Braves win, was his 14 strikeouts. Before hitting hte DL, Hanson had won his previous 3 starts, going at least 6 innings and allowing 2 or fewer runs in each of the three starts.
Pineda’s most recent start was a 7 inning outing against the Nationals. He allowed no runs and just four hits, but the Mariners fell, 1-0, and Pineda did not fare in the decision. Before that, he held the Phillies to 1 run on 2 hits over 6 innings in a 4-2 Seattle victory.
In Wednesday’s series and road trip finale, Derek Lowe will be looking to bounce back from his disappointing start in San Diego. Opposing Lowe and the Braves will be Hernandez, the reigning AL Cy Young winner.
Lowe lasted 5 2/3 innings against the Padres Friday night, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits and taking the loss. Before Friday’s loss, Lowe went 10 1/3 innings over his previous two starts, giving up 9 runs and 15 hits to Houston and Texas.
In his previous start, Hernandez was on, limiting the Marlins to 2 hits and one run over 8 innings, striking out 10. He took the loss in the start before that against the Phillies, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits. His record may look a little off for a reigning Cy Young winner (8-6, 3.19 ERA), but his 2010 numbers were about the same: 13-12 with a MLB-low 2.27 ERA.
This series may turn out to be a matchup of good pitching against sometimes lethargic offenses. Seattle’s pitching staff holds a 3.26 ERA, second-best in the AL, while the Braves 3.08 is second-best in the majors. The Braves batting average is .237, as compared to the Mariners .228.
The Braves are 6-4 in their last 10 while the Mariners are 5-5.
Keys to the series:
- Get the offense back on track
- It starts with Jordan Schafer and works its way down. Getting Schafer on base does wonders for the Braves offense, as does putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard early.
- Make their pitchers work
- Swinging early in the count will only help an opposing pitcher keep his pitch count low. Make him work for every inch he gets will prove vital come the 6th and 7th innings.
- Continue the strong pitching
- The Mariners offense, on paper, does not open many eyes aside from Ichiro, but Justin Smoak, Chone Figgins and Brendan Ryan all provide the Mariners with great at-bats that make opposing staffs sweat.