Marlins-Braves: Clash of the Titans…Sort Of

Jeff MoodyContributor IApril 14, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 10: Pitcher Derek Lowe #32 of the Atlanta Braves starts against the Washington Nationals April 10, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
The baseball season is all of a week old, so division standings can be misleading at this point. However, the midweek series between the 5-1 Marlins and the 5-1 Braves in Atlanta will have a lasting impact on the division.
By this point, most people know that the NL East is a four-team race for two likely playoff spots. The Mets and Phillies are the clear favorites, but Atlanta and Florida could very easily upset them.

The Marlins have great young talent in both hitting and pitching. The Braves miss the powerful Josh Johnson, who threw a complete game giving up only one run on Sunday, but they do not get a break with Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller.

Tonight’s game is crucial as the Marlins hit homers and Javier Vasquez struggles with the long ball, not to mention that Chris Volstad has pitched very well thus far (1-0, 1.80 ERA). Derek Lowe has the pitching advantage tomorrow night over the unpredictable Andrew Miller and the Braves need Kenshin Kawakami to cut back on the walks in order to depend on him in Thursday’s game against Anibal Sanchez.

Both teams need to keep up their offensive prowess throughout this week. Emilio Bonifacio has excited both fantasy and real baseball fans with his blazing speed and stolen bases and it’s hard to argue with a lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and Cameron Maybin patrolling center field.

The Marlins will struggle on defense, which could prove disastrous, but they may be able to score enough runs to make up for the defensive issues.

Jordan Schafer has proved all of his supporters right so far this year. The Braves need him to keep his pace up. Jeff Francouer’s new swing may lead to fewer homers, but it led to two triples on Sunday. If he remains consistent, the Braves can continue to manufacture runs behind Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

The X-factor for this series will be both teams’ bullpens. Both have shaky middle relief and closer consistency issues, so all three of these games may be won in the late innings.

At the very least, this matchup could be one of the best of the year and a precursor of things to come in the NL East.