Series Preview - Braves @ Orioles (June 12-14)
June 12th - Tommy Hanson (0-0, 9.00) vs Jason Berken (1-2, 7.14)
Berken's ERA is unfairly skewed by his last start against Oakland, when he got absolutely pummeled (9 earned in 3 1/3...yikes). His other 2 starts, he allowed 2 runs in 5 against the Jays in his ML debut, and then he got a tough luck loss after only allowing 1 run in 7 to the Tigers. Berken had an unreal 1.05 ERA down in Norfolk (due to a strand rate of 93.2%, which is uneal), and broke out last season for the Orioles in Bowie, going 12-4 with a 3.58 ERA. He doesn't walk a whole lot of guys or allow many home runs, but he does allow his fair share of hits.
Tommy Hanson needs no introduction. He's the most heralded and hyped Braves prospect since (probably) Andruw Jones, and quite frankly, he can do no wrong. His first start against the Brewers on Sunday was a mixed bag, as he got hit hard by the gopherball, but only walked one and allowed 3 non-homer hits. He also struck out 5 Milwaukee hitters, and his fastball hit as high as 98. The future is now...thank god.
June 13th - Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.62) vs Rich Hill (2-1, 5.24)
Ah, Rich Hill. The former Cubs wunderkind back in the majors, this time in Baltimore, who acquired him this offseason. Hill has been a mixed bag in Baltimore thusfar, turning out one amazing start against Seattle a week and a half ago (7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 3 BB, 7 K) sandwiched between a couple of stinkers (combined line: 4 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, 7 BB). Control is the reason he's no longer in Chicago, and control is looking like its still an issue in Baltimore, as his walk rate is nearly twice his career average. Should be an interesting matchup with the free swinging Braves hitters
Kenshin Kawakami has quietly turned his season around, and has allowed 3 or less earned runs in 7 straight starts. His control appears to be on point, walking 0 or 1 batters in 4 of his past 5 starts over the past month. He's also only allowed 1 home run since the beginning of May. Kawakami has greatly struggled on the road this season, and it will be interesting if that trend continues.
June 14th - Derek Lowe (7-3, 3.44) vs Brad Bergesen (3-2, 4.04)
Brad Bergesen is another one of the Orioles young pitchers, and he is a pitcher a lot like his counterpart on Sunday, Derek Lowe. Bergesen has a 2.25 GB/FB this season, compared to Lowe's 2.04 (which is extremely low...no pun intended, for him). Bergesen doesn't strike a whole lot of batters out, but he also doesn't walk many. He's got 3 straight quality starts for the O's, going 7 or more and allowing 2 or less runs in each of them.
Derek Lowe is enjoying a great year for the Braves, and is certainly earning his $15 million salary. 10 of Lowe's 13 starts have been of the quality variety, and he's walked 3 or fewer hitters in all but 1 of his starts. Lowe has also only allowed 2 home runs this season. Theres really not a whole lot you can say about Derek Lowe that hasn't been said before...he's a durable veteran thats going to keep the ball on the ground and get you an ERA in the mid-3s.
The Orioles offense is much scarier than it looks in the standings. Adam Jones is a true 5 tool superstar that is realizing his potential, and making an impact at the big league level, a year after being acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal. Luke Scott has been on an absolute tear since coming off the DL, and is having the year of his life this far. Nick Markakis, another young stud who Baltimore locked up for 6 years this offseason, started off the season red hot but has cooled considerably lately. He should still not be taken lightly. Brian Roberts is the catalyst for the team, and should be kept off base if at all possible, because he's a guy that can steal 3 bags in a night, especially when McCann is behind the plate. Nolan Reimold has slugged 7 homers in his first 82 at bats, and is establishing himself as a player who can be a cornerstone for the franchise. And then theres Matt Wieters..sigh. He's off to a rough start, but will turn it around. He's too good to have an OPS lower than the Braves right fielder.
For the Braves, the inclusion of the DH will likely be a detriment to the team with all of the injuries being suffered lately. With Greg Norton being placed on the DL, Barbaro Canizares will likely serve as the DH for the series, with a banged up Martin Prado taking the helm at 1B. If Prado is too injured to play, Canizares will shift to first, with the DH spot being manned by (most likely) Garret Anderson (who's defense pales in comparison to Matt Diaz's in left). It would be ideal to get David Ross's bat in the lineup along with McCann's, but Bobby Cox doesn't like to screw around with his catchers in case of an injury. The rest of the lineup appears to be cut and dry, unless Cox decides to let Diory Hernandez get some at bats to spell a slumping Kelly Johnson at second base.
Can the talented hitters be patient with Hanson and Kawakami?
Can the young pitching get the Braves to swing at bad pitches?
Will the offense be crumbled by injuries, or can the backups admirably fill in?
Can Tommy Hanson throw his offspeed pitches for strikes, and keep his fastball down in the zone?