Braves and Giants preparing for pitching showdown
When the NCAA basketball tourney pairings have been announced in the past, a friend has often hoped that his beloved Oklahoma Sooners play their first round game on Friday night.
“It makes it feel like you’re in the tournament longer,” he has playfully reasoned.
Well all of this year’s American League teams will have played the first two games in their respective Division Series matchups before Tim Lincecum throws his first pitch at 9:37 p.m. ET Thursday night to mark the start of the Braves-Giants National League Division Series.
In some ways it’s nice to have the extra day to rest some tired arms (Jonny Venters) and tired legs (Brian McCann). But while sitting here watching Jeff Francoeur drive in the first run of this year’s postseason, you can’t help but grow more anxious just to see what will transpire over the next couple of days, when the Braves and Giants pit their strong pitching staffs against each other.
Over their final 31 regular season games, the Giants posted a 1.91 ERA. That staggering number becomes even more impressive when you consider that the San Francisco pitchers not named Barry Zito posted a 1.64 ERA during this span.
During their final 31 games, the Braves posted a 3.59 ERA. That number drops down to 2.73 when he don’t account for the damage incurred by Cristhian Martinez, Mike Minor, Scott Proctor and Jair Jurrjens.
There is reason to believe that Zito and Jurrjens will both be left off the Division Series roster. Minor and Proctor definitely won’t be part of the 25-man roster the Braves submit before Thursday morning and Martinez will likely stand simply as the final selection of an 11-man pitching staff.
Before the Braves left Turner Field yesterday, Brandon Beachy confirmed that he will be on the DS roster and Takashi Saito (shoulder) said he would not be included. Jair Jurrjens would likely have to wait until the NLCS before having a chance to prove that his right knee is truly healthy enough for him to pitch.
My projected Braves NLDS roster:
Catchers: Brian McCann , David Ross
Infielders: Derrek Lee, Brooks Conrad, Omar Infante, Alex Gonzalez, Diory Hernandez, (updated: erroneously omitted when first published)Troy Glaus
Outfielders: Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske, Jason Heyward, Melky Cabrera
Starting pitchers: Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson
Relief pitchers: Billy Wagner, Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Peter Moylan, Mike Dunn, Brandon Beachy, Kyle Farnsworth, Cristhian Martinez.
While posting a 1.91 ERA in their final 31 games, the Giants went 20-11. Five of those losses came in games started by Zito. But they also hit just .232 and averaged 3.6 per game runs during this span.
While winning just 13 of their final 29 games, the Braves hit .243 and averaged 3.5 runs per game.
With Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez getting the ball in the first three games for the Giants, the Braves will spend the next few days gaining more reason to wish Chipper Jones and Martin Prado were still around.
But with Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson getting the first three starts for the Braves, manager Bobby Cox’s club certainly also has the potential to prolong San Francisco’s offensive struggles.
Initially I was surprised when Cox chose to go with Hanson instead of Hudson for Game 2. The veteran skipper has seemingly always favored his veterans.
But when you look at the .Hanson’s final month (1.81 ERA and .176 opp. BA) and combine it with the fact that Hudson exerted a lot of physical and emotional energy in Sunday ‘s outing against the Phillies, it made sense to give Hudson a chance to get a couple extra days of rest.
Check MLB.com and braves.com later today for more updates. Heading to the stadium now for this afternoon’s workout.