The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off their two biggest wins of the season and finally find themselves in a comfortable groove. They have won four out of five since a dreadful eight-game losing streak and now hit the road for a pair of three-game sets at the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Here is a preview of their weekend series against the Braves.
Friday: Dodgers Ryu Hyun-jin (4-2, 3.40 ERA) vs. Braves Paul Maholm (4-4, 3.94 ERA)
This will be the first time any Braves hitter will face Ryu. That is a nice advantage for the hurler, who has had an outstanding start to his rookie campaign with the Dodgers. As for Maholm, he is no stranger to Dodger hitters. The problem for the Dodgers is that their two best hitters against Maholm, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Hanley Ramirez, are injured.
No one else has had much success against Maholm in the past. Matt Kemp is 4-for-16 with four strikeouts in his career against him and Nick Punto is 0-for-7. Also, don’t expect to see Juan Uribe in the lineup for the Dodgers on Friday. He is just 2-for-19 in his career against Maholm.
Saturday: Dodgers Chris Capuano (1-2, 6.60 ERA) vs. Braves Kris Medlen (1-5, 3.44 ERA)
Capuano is coming off his best outing of the year when he blanked the Marlins last week, but the Braves will be a much bigger test even if Justin Upton (5-for-14, one home run) is the only Brave who has good numbers against him. Only two other Braves have seen Capuano a lot – Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman — and both hitters have struggled against him. Uggla is 4-for-22 with 13 strikeouts and Freeman is 2-for-13 with five strikeouts.
Medlen has been a victim of poor run support this season. He has lost five games, but boasts a solid 3.44 ERA. The only two Dodgers he has experience pitching against are Andre Ethier and Kemp. Ethier is 4-for-6 with a double while Kemp is 1-for-7 with four strikeouts. Maybe Saturday would be a good time to give Kemp a day off if he doesn’t extend his current 14-game hitting streak on Friday night.
Sunday: Dodgers Matt Magill (0-0, 6.92) vs. Braves Mike Minor (5-2, 2.75 ERA)
Like Ryu, the Braves have no experience against Magill, a rookie who is most likely making his last start before Ted Lilly returns to the rotation next week. Magill has struggled with his command during his two starts and is only pitching Sunday because Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw 132 pitches on Tuesday night. Kershaw was scheduled to pitch on Sunday, but because of the high pitch count, Don Mattingly wanted to give him an extra day off, so the Braves got lucky here.
Minor has been the most consistent pitcher on the Braves staff over the last two seasons, and has been outstanding against Kemp and Ethier in his career as the two Dodgers are combined 1-for-14 against Minor. The only Dodger who has had success against him is Luis Cruz, who is 2-for-3 with a home run. But don’t expect Cruz in the lineup anytime soon. His .090 batting average this season is amongst the worst in the league, and I expect him to be cut from the team next week when Mark Ellis or Hairston return from the disabled list.