COMMENTARY | Get ready to wave your brooms, brushes, feather dusters and mustache combs Atlanta; the Braves will look to start the 2013 season off with a clean sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3.
The Braves have laid the lumber early this season. Their 16 runs through two games have only been bested by the 19 runs worth of crooked numbers the New York Mets have put on the scoreboard so far. While this will be the third game between the two clubs, the marquee pitching matchup may have some fans thinking it is opening day all over again.
Atlanta Braves (2-0) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (0-2)April 4 7:10 p.m. (ET)
With Philadelphia toting such a left-handed heavy lineup, it is a little surprising manager Fredi Gonzalez did not choose to start Mike Minor in Game 3 against the likes of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Instead, Kris Medlen will take the bump for the first time since having the Braves' 6-3 loss hung on his shoulders in their wild-card nightmare against the St. Louis Cardinals last Oct.
Even though Medlen boasted a 10-1 record with a 1.57 ERA in 2012, he did not have a single start against Philadelphia. Medlen worked 3 1/3 innings against the Phillies out of the bullpen, giving up three earned runs in his short docket of work.
As for Cliff Lee, despite his 6-9 record in 2012, he still tallied an ERA of 1.80 against the Braves. The Atlanta starting lineup has a career .234 batting average against the former Cy Young Award winner.
Keys to the Game:
Keep Cliff Lee Crying For Run Support: Even though Lee pitched 211 innings, made 30 starts, struck out over 200 batters and had an ERA of 3.16, he only managed to squeak out six victories last season. Lee's average of 3.2 runs of support per game was good enough for fourth-worst among all starting pitchers in baseball. The Phillies scored two or fewer runs in 18 of Lee's 30 starts. Medlen would love to keep Philadelphia off of the board and allow this trend to spill over into the 2013 season as well.
Keep the Home Run Train Rolling: When the Braves signed B.J. Upton and Justin Upton before the start of the 2013 season, many predicted the Braves would have one of the most power-laden lineups in the league. Atlanta has not disappointed thus far, as they have belted six homers in their first two games.
In Game 3, they will square off against a pitcher who coughed up 26 bombs in 2012. The stage is set for more of Mr. Rawlings' little men to find their way into Atlanta's outfield grandstands. Considering the Braves have collectively struck out 24 times already, over the wall or in the catcher's glove may be the two most likely places to find the baseball.
Players to Watch:
B.J. Upton: As for the list of awards B.J. Upton had his sights set on achieving this year, the "Golden Sombrero" was probably not one of them. Upton went 0-4 with four K's in Game 2 of the series. His season total is now 0-8 with five about-faces to the dugout. Although Upton has a strong .292 career average against Lee, he was 0-3 with three strikeouts in his only showdown with him last season.
Jason Heyward: In what has to be one of the more puzzling statistics, Jason Heyward is 2-for-11 against Lee for his career, but he has only struck out one time. With all of the contact Heyward has generated off of the Phillies' left-hander, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues, or if some of those batted balls will start finding some holes.
Dan Uggla/Justin Upton: Which power-hitter will be the first to record a hit that isn't a home run? Currently, the Atlanta sluggers are 3-for-12 with all of their hits finding their way over the outfield boundary. While no fans are complaining about the twosome's early long-ball exhibition, it would be alright if they wouldn't mind splitting a gap or tapping a bleeder through the infield every now and then. This all-or-nothing type of hitting may eventually come back to bite the Braves later in the year.
Next Opponent: Chicago Cubs @ Atlanta Braves April 5-7
Game 1: Mike Minor vs. Scott Feldman
Game 2: Julio Teheran vs. Carlos Villanueva
Game 3: Tim Hudson vs. Jeff Samardzija
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