May 21, 2010

Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / May 21, 2010

Finally a real opponent. Forgive me, but it's downright tiring facing these NL Central foes. Apart from St. Louis they all seem like tests (Do you want to go to the Pirates-Astros game?) for how much a girl really likes you. The Braves come to town at 21-20 and are hoping to return to their former role as a perennial annoying playoff team.

Say what you want about the Braves but they are a true regional team. Back in the day when aquatic life roamed the Gulf of Mexico and I lived in Wilmington N.C., Braves fandom used to be a pretty reliable litmus test for real Southern status. Talking about Jarrod Saltalamacchia's call-up on a morning Castle Hayne-bound bus? True Southerner. Watching the Yankee game while ordering Jim Beam in a Southern accent? Sorry, just racist.

Nate McLouth (.208/.329/.350) makes his triumphant return and hasn't been hitting at all. Nate could still have a big series at PNC. Fellow 2009 Pirate Jesse Chavez (0-0, 7.23) is making the Braves decision to trade Rafael Soriano for him look awful.

The Braves have an average offense led by presumptive Rookie of Jason Heyward (.276/.392/.553). Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (.225/.383/.360) still bats third for old times' sake. Brian McCann and Troy Glaus are solid. Melky "Shouldn't have traded for me" Cabrera (.200/.287/.235) is the only hole in the lineup thus far.

Atlanta Braves: Friday 7:05, Saturday 7:05, Sunday 1:35
Friday, Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.41) faces Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00). This is like the Super Bowl of pitch-to-contact pitchers. Ohlendorf is the modern-day Hudson, except that Hudson still pitches in the modern day. Hudson has pitched to a 2.82 ERA against the Pirates which is pretty solid. Ohlendorf has fully recovered from his injury and might be the ace of this Pirates staff. This game features Nate McLouth's triumphant return to Pittsburgh, but the Braves have set up a team that's perfectly constructed to be mystified by Ross's Ivy League stuff. My pick is the Pirates.

Saturday, on Garrett Jones Ceramic Figurine Day, the Braves go with Derek Lowe (5-4, 5.47) against Charlie Morton (1-7, 9.68). How pure a feeling we Pittsburghers must feel when playing the only intraleague games of the weekend. Bonus points if you can identify the difference between intraleague and interleague. Morton should be a reliever but he knows his former teammates well enough to keep the Bucs in the game. Derek Lowe is still in the rotation mainly because of his salary. My pick is the Pirates.

Sunday features the most intriguing matchup of the series. Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.45) is really overcoming having a girl's name, while Zach Duke (3-4, 5.08) will have to overcome the fact that he can't face Roy Halladay on this day. Medlen is due for a correction. My pick is the Pirates.

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