Braves Try to Stay Hot Against Mets
by Robert Ferringo - 07/27/2006
If you have a big brother - or a little brother - you'll know what I'm saying.
The Big Brother always dominates the little brother athletically when they're growing up. The Elder is smarter, stronger and knows all the angles. The Older Brother generally controls the Younger Brother, and he loves every second of watching his kin get beaten down and disheartened.
But then one day the Younger Brother grows up. And he seeks Revenge.
Atlanta has been the Big Brother of the National League East, winning 14 consecutive division titles. Each year they make a fool of the Younger Brother team that's supposedly going to catch them. But now New York is a mature club, and the Mets are making the suddenly-weakened Braves pay for all the past pain they've doled out on the Flushing Faithful.
New York is in Atlanta this weekend for a three-game set. Even though the Mets are 11.5 games up on the Braves, this series still has postseason implications, although it only involves the Wild Card.
Atlanta has been scorching hot lately, winning 15 of their last 21 games. The Braves are making a serious push for the playoffs, and this is a Statement Series for the defending division champs. This is critical to energizing their organization, along with their fan base, as they make a final push towards another postseason berth.
Here's my breakdown of the weekend series between the Mets and the Braves:
Friday, Pedro Martinez (7-4) vs. Horatio Ramirez (5-3)
Peter is not the pitcher that you want to see on the bump if you're entering a Big Series. Martinez hasn't hurled since June 28 because of a sore hip. However, that means one of two things: Pedro's rested and ready to go, or he's rusty and ready to be rocked. The Braves are praying that it's the latter.
Ramirez doesn't have the Star Power of Pedro, but he's been highly effective his past few outings. Atlanta is 4-1 in his last five starts. Ramirez will also have an out-of-control offense behind him. The Braves are sixth in the league in runs per game (5.34) and fourth in home runs (138). Atlanta has gone Over in 16 of their last 19 games.
Despite his recent health problems, Martinez figures to be the favorite on name alone. One thing to consider is that Atlanta is 9-4 as an underdog since June 25. They could be a great value play here, especially against a guy that hasn't taken the hill since before the All-Star Break.
Saturday, Orlando Hernandez (6-8) vs. Tim Hudson (8-8)
Throw the win-loss records out the window. These are two guys who know how to hurl and are used to throwing in big spots.
Hudson had a terrible start to the season. But he's got it together lately and the Braves are 4-0 in his last four starts. The Braves are 6-3 as a favorite at home since June 30, and I figure they'll be laying juice in this spot. If they are -- especially against a team that is clearly better than them -- I would view it as a red flag.
El Duque has been a godsend for the Mets since coming over from Arizona. However, it has been all-or-nothing for the Cuban defector. In his last five outings, he's tossed seven solid innings three times, but hasn't made it out of the second inning the other two times. Now he's running up against a club that's hammered 35 home runs in its last 12 games. Not good for Hernandez. However, he can take solace that the Mets won two out of three in their April trip to Atlanta.
I think this game may be decided by the Braves' newest edition, Bob Wickman. Wickman has thrown a pair of scoreless innings since coming to Atlanta from Cleveland. He's converted his last five save chances and has only given up three hits in his last six innings. He will either be exposed as a fraud or exalted as a hero depending on how he performs this weekend.
Sunday, Tom Glavine (11-4) vs. Chuck James (4-1)
Here's Tom Glavine's situation: Picture a guy dating his high school sweetheart. All of a sudden he goes off to college and is seduced by some sexy vixen with a tongue ring and black pants. He ditches The Girl Next Door to get with this new, sultry chick. It goes pretty well for him and he has a lot of fun. Except, whenever he's in the same room as his ex-girlfriend he's rendered powerless. His game is gone, and he realizes that even though he is happy now with his ultra-sexy chick, he knows he let a great thing go.
That is Tom Glavine when it comes to the Braves. Some guys come back to punish their old team. Not Glavine. He's powerless. He's 3-11 with an ERA over six against the Braves since he left Hotlanta in 2003. He doesn't pitch well against his old mates, and he won't in this spot.
Series Prediction: Braves win 2-1.
I see Pedro getting it done for the Mets in the opener, then El Duque getting shelled by the big-hitting Braves in Game 2. In the rubber match the Braves take it down, for history's sake, against their Tommy Boy. The Braves have been swinging big bats lately, and have more to play for here.
There are only two things that could derail their demolition: it may rain on Friday, causing a doubleheader on Saturday, and Chipper Jones is still nursing a sore side. Also, the Braves are a pathetic -$1,279 for the season, but are +$125 on the run line. That means they lose a lot of close games. It may be worth it to sacrifice some juice for the security of an extra run in what promises to by a tightly matched series.
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