San Diego Padres (46-73) at Atlanta Braves (76-41)

The Padres begin a relatively brief but tough road trip in Atlanta. This isn't the Atlanta team of the 90s, this team relies more on its hitting prowess than its pitching.

Game One

RHP Adam Eaton (6-8, 4.14) and RHP Greg Maddux (11-8, 4.24)

Eaton took a tough loss his last time out, giving up 3 runs in 7 IP with 1 BB and 8 Ks. He has a 3.86 ERA since the All-Star Break and had really given us a chance to win nearly every time he takes the hill. This should be a good test for Eaton as he will be facing the NL's most potent offense.

Greg Maddux started the season in very uncharacteristic fashion. The whispers began that he had lost "it". However, rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. He has posted a 2.73 ERA since the break. While he probably isn't going to win any more Cy Young Awards, he can still get it done.

Game Two

RHP Kevin Jarvis (4-4, 5.04) and LHP Mike Hampton (9-5, 4.41)

Jarvis has taken it on the chin and the ERA his last 2 starts. After giving up only 7 runs in all of July, Jarvis has given up 12 so far in August, 7 runs in his last start alone. Jarvis is catching too much of the plate, and without a spectacular out pitch, things can get ugly. The best case scenario is that Jarvis keeps the game manageable and is able to eat up some innings.

Make no mistake; this is not the same Mike Hampton that won 22 games with Houston in 1999. However, this is also not the same guy that lost 15 games with Colorado last season. He will give up his share of walks, so it is critical that the hitters be patient.

Game Three

RHP Jake Peavy (9-8, 4.16) and RHP Russ Ortiz (16-5, 3.46)

Peavy was masterful in his last outing, shutting out the Reds for 9 innings. While it took a strike from Gary Matthews, Jr. to preserve the shutout, it doesn't diminish the poise of the 22 year old. He had incredible movement on his slider, combined with a mid-90s fastball, which was a lethal combination for Reds' hitters. Many of Jake's family and friends will be traveling from Alabama to see him pitch. Hopefully, he won't be too nervous. Well, no more nervous than he should be facing this tough Braves lineup.

The only thing that has changed about Russ Ortiz is his uniform. He leads the NL in wins but statistically, he looks very much like the Russ Ortiz that played for the Giants. He will strike out the occasional batter, and he walks his fair share. However, more often than not, he wants you to get yourself out.

Players to watch

Mark Kotsay has been hitting well over his last 17 games, hitting .354 over that stretch. However, Kotsay re-aggravated his back sliding into 3rd on Sunday. Hopefully the trainers can help Kotsay's sore back; otherwise he may be sitting out a good portion of this series.

Gary Sheffield is putting up better numbers than when he was a Triple Crown threat with the Padres in 1992. Hitting .334 with 29 HR and 91 RBI is only part of it. How about an OB% of .430 or OPS of 1.036?!? He will lose some MVP votes because of his attitude, but he is definitely having an MVP caliber year.

Other Notes

Mark Loretta received a long, warm ovation at the "Q" on Friday when it was shown on the scoreboard that he was re-signed. Loretta has been a shining star in a dismal season. I get the feeling that this won't be a signing that Kevin Towers regrets.

Kim Lewis can be reached at geckointhebox@yahoo.com

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