After a 3-3 road trip to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, the Atlanta Braves are about to begin their longest homestand of the year, and it’s time they started cooking up some home victories at Turner Field.
With three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, three games against the National League East division leading Washington Nationals, and then four games against the struggling Chicago Cubs, the Braves have an opportunity to make up ground in the division, and separate themselves from the rest of the pack before a quick three-game series in Philadelphia, and the All-Star break.
The big question mark is going to fall on the starting pitching rotation. The probable starters for the series against Arizona are Tim Hudson (5-3), Tommy Hanson (8-4) and Jair Jurrjens (1-2). The Braves have to feel confident of being able to take at least two out of three from the Diamondbacks. But then in a big weekend series, the Nationals come to town and the Braves are looking at sending Randall Delgado (4-8) and Mike Minor (3-6) to the hill in the first two games of that all-important series. Minor is scheduled to start against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg (9-2).
The Braves record at Turner Field is also a bit of a puzzler. The normally home-friendly park has been anything but for Atlanta this season, sporting a 15-17 record at home this season.
KEYS TO THE HOMESTAND
- Michael Bourn needs to continue to get on base regularly
- Either Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, or Chipper Jones need to emerge from their mini-slump. The Braves have real trouble scoring when all three aren’t hitting well.
- Jason Heyward – named NL Player of the Week last week – needs to keep his hot bat going.
- Innings, Innings, Innings, out of starting picthing. The bullpen needs to be able to be fresh when called on.
- Kimbrel time – get into the 9th inning with a lead, and let Craig Kimbrel do the rest.
If the Braves can go 7-3 or better on this homestand, they should head into the series with the Philadelphia Phillies with at least a share of the lead in the NL East.