The Atlanta Braves (54-41) and Chicago White Sox (37-55) begin the second half of the season on Friday night as the Braves look to keep their lead in the National League East. The White Sox sit 14 games the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and are likely just looking to build momentum heading into the 2014 season. Here’s a preview of the opening series of the second half of the 2013 MLB season.
Probable Pitchers: Friday: Tim Hudson (6-7, 4.02) vs. John Danks (2-6, 4.31); Saturday: Paul Maholm (9-8, 3.98) vs. Jake Peavy (6-4, 4.30); Sunday: Mike Minor (9-4, 3.02) vs. Jose Quintana (4-2, 3.71).
Keys: The Braves’ starting rotation has the opportunity to create some positive vibes coming out of the break as they go up against an offense that ranks 29th in runs scored, 27th in on-base percentage and 12th in the AL in home runs. Keeping top of the order hitters Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez off base will allow the starters to have success. The White Sox bottom or the order is very manageable, and they rely on their first four hitters for most of their production. Alex Rios is their best all-around hitter and Adam Dunn is capable of changing a game with one swing. If De Aza and Ramirez aren’t getting on base in front of those hitters, the White Sox will struggle mightily to score any runs in this series.
The Braves catch a break by missing one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game in Chris Sale but still face an above average starting rotation. The White Sox have the fourth-best starting rotation in the AL with a 3.94 ERA. Peavy will be making his first start since June 4 and will be interesting to see how he fares returning from a rib injury. Meanwhile, Quintana has quietly put together a nice season for the White Sox and has a 2.57 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in three starts in July. The Braves are at their best when they get on base by taking walks to set-up a big hit by one of their big hitters in the lineup. Showing patience at the plate against some quality starters should be on the minds of the Braves hitters heading into this series.
Outlook: The Braves face a much easier schedule in the second half of the season, which starts with the last place team in the AL Central. They need to take advantage of a lighter schedule and anything less than taking two of three will be a disappointment.