You might not have necessarily noticed this considering all the fanfare surrounding the Braves powerful offense in 2013, as well as the fact the Pirates have been playing third fiddle to the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds all season in the N.L. Central. But sure enough, Pittsburgh is a healthy 35-22, a half game ahead of the far more celebrated Atlanta squad.
The two teams will kick off a three-game series on Monday evening, having both finished the week with a win on Sunday. Each squad has won six of their last ten games.
The Braves will send Kris Medlen to the mound, and the right-hander will hope to put a stop to his personal five-game losing streak. Medlen (1-6, 3.48) hasn’t won since beating the lowly Miami Marlins on April 9th. It certainly hasn’t been totally his fault though, as the Braves’ offense has given Medlen just three runs of support in his last four outings.
The Pirates will counter with their own right-hander, A.J. Burnett—another pitcher that’s been victimized by poor run support. Burnett (3-5, 2.72) has received just six runs of support over his last five starts. The 36-year-old power pitcher has struck out 89 opposing batters in just 76 innings.
Though the Pirates took three of four from the Braves earlier this season, the deciding factor tonight—and in the entire series for that matter—could be the venue. Even though Pittsburgh is one of just nine teams in MLB with a winning road record (14-11), the host Braves have the second best winning percentage at home in all of baseball at 18-7.
The first pitch of game one is scheduled to be thrown at 7:10 PM EDT.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)