After two dominant series wins, featuring stellar performances from the pitching and offense, the Atlanta Braves are here for the their first series of 2010. After losing the season series last year 8-10 (4 wins at home and on the road), the Phillies dropped the first series in late April, winning just one game in Atlanta. With SP Jair Jurrjens on the disabled list, and rookie phenom, Jason Heyward available only to pinch hit, as he is day to day with a groin injury, the Phillies could ride their hot streak to take the third and final series of the homestand.
GAME ONE: Derek Lowe (4-2, 5.18) at Jamie Moyer (3-2, 5.70)
In what looks like an even statistical match-up, this game is going to be decided on which offense scores more runs. Lowe has benefited from the Braves lineup scoring seven or more runs in four of his first six starts. When facing this Phillies last month, he gave up five runs in five innings of work. In regular season play, he has held the current Phillies to just a .191 average; allowing just four home runs and thirteen walks in 203 plate appearances. On a more interesting note, Lowe is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five career starts at Citizens Bank Park. Moyer is also the beneficiary of offensive outbursts when taking the mound; most recently on May 2nd while the Phillies scored 11 runs to earn Moyer his third victory of the season. His last start featured the typical bad inning from Moyer, allowing five runs on six hits (including a three run shot from David Wright) during six innings of work. If there was any night for Moyer to keep away from a big inning, its tonight. Atlanta is batting .305 against him, with Troy Glaus batting the hottest against him with five doubles, five home runs, 15 RBIs, and six walks in 67 plate appearances. The key tonight is for Moyer to go at least six, avoid the big inning, and for the Phillies to put up some early run support.
GAME TWO: Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.55) at Joe Blanton (0-1, 5.40)
Medlen was penciled in for the spot start Wednesday after Jair Jurrjens was placed on the DL. Last month, he allowed four hits and two runs over two and a third innings of work against the Phillies. Atlanta has made it known that Medlen is on a 70-75 pitch count and are hoping he goes at least four/five innings. This is his first starting pitching appearance since July 12th, 2009. The Phils haven’t seen much of Medlen, but are batting .300 against him in 30 at bats. Although Blanton earned the loss in Monday’s game against St. Louis, he pitched well going into the seventh and probably stayed out there a little too long. In his last start, he allowed 10 hits, four runs, one walks, and four strike outs; but don’t let the numbers fool you. Blanton had allowed only one run until a pinch hit home run. Last year, Blanton went 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in five starts against Atlanta. For this game, Phillies should be patient at the plate with Medlen on a known pitch count.
GAME THREE: Kenshin Kawakami (0-5, 5.47) at Cole Hamels (2-2, 4.42)
Kawakami will be looking for his first win of the season against a hot lineup that he handled nicely in 2009. Lifetime, the Phillies are batting .167 with just eight hits, two walks, and one home run in 51 plate appearances. This year, he has allowed the opposition to hit .298 with a .342 on base percentage. Hamels is coming off his best start of 2010, and if we trust Carlos Ruiz, who said Hamels’ fastball was the best he’s seen in a long time – his best start since 2008. In his last start he had the best velocity on his fastball all season, and mixed his cutter and curveball effectively. In his last 14 innings, he has complied 18 strikeouts. The Braves are batting .256 against him; with your favorite and mine, Chipper Jones, batting .409, with nine hits, four doubles and two home runs against Hamels. If Hamels brings the dominance he brought Tuesday night, and the offense does its job, Kawakami should leave Philly still looking for his first win of the season.
If you’re heading down this weekend: enjoy yourselves and the first Philly leg of the Bobby Cox farewell tour. If you’re watching from home, enjoy a second straight week of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver for FOX Saturday afternoon baseball.