The Braves weren't expected to be good this season, and for the most part, they haven't been. But don't be fooled by their record of 34-38 -- they've won 3 series in a row and are 7-3 in their past 10, a good enough surge to get them up to second place in the NL East, which may be the only division in baseball worse than the NL Central. They've been good enough to be competitive, which is likely what they wanted in their first year in a new ballpark. They also have the hottest ballpark attraction of the summer — fools getting owned trying to race a masked track star known only as The Freeze:
The Brewers are catching a bit of a break this time around against Atlanta, with Freddie Freeman currently on the DL with a fractured wrist. Before the injury, Freeman was hitting .341/.361/.748 with 14 home runs and 11 doubles in 37 games. During the Braves' trip to Miller Park at the end of April, Freeman was 5-for-13 with a double and 2 home runs, including a 2-run shot off of Neftali Feliz in the top of the 9th inning of a tie game to ultimately give the Braves a 10-8 win in the series opener.
With Freeman out, the Braves' biggest threat in the lineup is probably Matt Kemp, who's enjoying a bit of a career resurgance this year, hitting .320/.362/.549 with 12 home runs and 20 doubles. He may not be able to run like it's 2011, but he can still hit the ball as hard as anyone -- he's currently carrying a hard-hit rate of 37.4%.
There's really no other way to describe the series at Miller Park to close out April in a positive light. As mentioned, Feliz started down the road to his DFA by coughing up the Freeman home run in the first game. The Brewers lost the second game of the series, 11-3, in a game that looked much worse in the box score after Tommy Milone and Jhan Marinez teamed up to allow 6 runs in the 7th and 8th innings. The Brewers were able to salvage the series finale, 4-3, to finish April at .500. Domingo Santana hit two home runs in that game to account for all of the Brewers scoring.
Friday, 6:35 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Jimmy Nelson vs. Mike Foltynewicz
Young pitchers can be inconsistent, and that's been the case for Foltynewicz so far this year. He started June with 14 straight scoreless innings, striking out 14 batters and allowing just 6 total hits against the Reds and Phillies. Then he went out and allowed 8 runs on 11 hits (3 home runs) in 3.1 innings against the Nationals on June 12th (the Braves actually came back to win that game 11-10 in the 9th). He throws hard, but doesn't strike out as many as you'd think (7.18 K/9, 18.2 K%), which might be part of the problem. In his first start against the Brewers this year, he gave up 4 runs (but only 1 earned) in 6 innings, allowing just 4 hits. Unfortunately for him, 2 of those hits were home runs.
Saturday, 3:10 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Matt Garza vs. R.A. Dickey
Freaking knuckleballers. This is going to go one of two ways -- either the knuckleball isn't moving and the Brewers hit Dickey all over the park, or the pitch happens to be working and the Brewers will spend the afternoon popping up. Case in point: he's coming off a 7 shutout inning performance against the Giants in which he struck out 6 and allowed just 3 hits. The start before that, the Nationals teed off for three home runs and 8 earned runs in 5 innings. The 42-year-old comes into the weekend with a 4.91 ERA (5.71 FIP) in 84.1 innings.
Sunday, 12:35 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Zach Davies vs. TBA
The Braves haven't officially announced their starter for Sunday yet, but based on their regular rotation, it'll likely be Julio Teheran, who has struggled through an wild and inconsistent first half of the season. In 15 starts, the young should-be ace has been hit to the tune of a 4.76 ERA, and he's lucky it's that low (he currently has a 5.56 FIP). After averaging about 8 strikeouts per 9 innings and a 22 K% for most of his career, those strikeout numbers have taken a nose dive this year (6.10 K/9, 15.7 K%). His walks have also spiked by more than three percent, meaning more guys are on base when he surrenders a home run -- which he's done 17 times already in 87 innings. He has shown signs of turning things around lately, though, allowing just 6 earned runs in his last three starts, covering 20.1 innings.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs