As the month of May is drawing to a close, it’s hard to believe that coming into this month the Braves were in last place and just a game removed from a nine-game skid.
It almost feels like we are in a different season.
After a decent start to the month, the Braves caught fire—and have won five out of their last six series (the other series was a 1-1 split between the Braves and Mets).
As the Braves caught fire, the Phillies seemed to lose some of theirs, and the team which was heavily favored to return to the World Series holds a slim 1.5 game advantage over the Braves.
While a key series with the Phillies is on deck, the Braves first get a visit from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just a week ago, the same two teams started a three game set, and the Braves won two.
After the series with the Pirates, the schedule gets much more difficult for the Braves, as they face the Phillies, Dodgers and Twins (as well as the struggling Diamondbacks) in the first half of June.
A series win over the Pirates would likely allow the Braves to play around .500 ball over that 13 game stretch and stay within striking distance of the Phillies.
Are Escobar and McCann Coming Around?
As good as the Braves have been recently, some of their players still have pretty bad stat lines. Among them are Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann, who typically are among the Braves most productive hitters.
After a terrible April, Brian McCann seems to be hitting like his old self again. In May, he hit .290 with three homeruns, and has raised his batting average 29 points along the way.
Although he is currently dealing with an arm injury, McCann is expected to be back in the lineup soon, and should continue to hit his way toward another Silver Slugger award.
Escobar hasn’t had the same success this month as McCann. He’s only played in about half the team’s games this month (due to an injury suffered the end of April) and has hit a meager .171 over that span.
But, Escobar is 4-6 over the past two games, and looks like he might finally be snapping out of his skid. A career .301 hitter coming into this year, he has nowhere to go but up as he is currently hitting .200.
Derek Lowe is Pitching Better (but still not worth the money)
It’s no secret that Derek Lowe has greatly underperformed since signing a huge free agent contract with the Braves.
In fact, you can probably count on one hand the number of people who expect him to return to his 2008 form (when he had a 3.24 ERA in his final year with the Dodgers).
But over his past three starts, Lowe has actually been solid, posting a 3.50 ERA over 18 innings of work.
While those numbers aren’t worth 15 million a year, I think that’s about as much as we can hope for from Lowe at this point.
Assuming that Jair Jurrjens can come back healthy and strong, the Braves would be in good position if Derek Lowe could just eat innings and keep his ERA around 4.00 for the rest of the year.
Upcoming Series: Atlanta Braves (25-22) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-28)
Derek Lowe (6-4, 5.30) vs. Zach Duke (3-4, 4.47)
Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.57) vs. Brian Burress (2-2, 5.40)
Kenshin Kawakami (0-7, 4.93) vs. Paul Maholm (3-4, 3.98)
The pitching matchups could have been better for the Braves, but I still think they will fare ok.
Zach Duke has been pitching great as of late (and beat Derek Lowe in his last start) so I think the Pirates will take the first game.
However, I think the Braves will win the last two games of the set, with Kenshin Kawakami finally getting his first win on Sunday.