After a slow start to the year, the Atlanta Braves have really picked it up of late, winning 10 out of their last 12 games. After failing to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 22 the team will now face the Los Angeles Dodgers in an important three game series. What follows are my three keys to the Braves having a successful series.
Starting Pitching - Continuing Solid Performances
Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, and Brandon Beachy will be on the mound against the Dodgers in the upcoming series, and the key pitcher in the series will be Jurrjens. He hasn't given up less than three runs in any of his starts to this point, and is coming off an outing against the New York Mets where he gave up four runs and seven hits in only four innings pitched. Aside from Randall Delgado giving up a grand slam on April 22 against the Diamondbacks, the Braves have had a string of solid pitching performances to this point, and they will need to keep it up in this series against a difficult Dodgers lineup led by Matt Kemp.
Offense - Michael Bourn Getting on Base
A lot of the Braves' success has coincided with the improved offense of Michael Bourn; over the last seven days Michael Bourn has batted .464 while the team has gone 5-2. If Bourn can get on base a few times he can surely wreak havoc on the Dodgers' pitching, as he already has seven stolen bases on the year. Another player to watch out for is Freddie Freeman, who along with Bourn is batting well over .400 over the past week and has picked up his power numbers as well.
Bullpen - Staying Dominant
Atlanta's bullpen is still one of the best in the major leagues, and it will be important for them to stay dominant against a hot Dodgers ballclub, especially if Jurrjens were to get knocked out early. Johnny Venters has been ridiculously good this year, with twelve strikeouts in fewer than seven innings pitched, while Livan Hernandez and Chad Durbin are continuing to lower their ERAs as the season progresses.
Ryan Kekoufski is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan. He covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and currently resides in Virginia.
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