Toronto Blue Jays-Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Pitching Matchups

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IMay 22, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 6:  Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium May 6, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays open a series in Atlanta tonight after an extremely disappointing series against the Boston Red Sox in which they got swept. The Jays are still in first, but by just 0.5 games.

Both Robert Ray and Brett Cecil were officially sent down today, and taking their places in the rotation will be Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero. This means that Janssen will pitch Game Two of the series, and both Scott Richmond and Brian Tallet will be pushed back a day.

Game One Pitching Preview: Roy Halladay (8-1) Versus Kenshin Kawakami (2-5)

Advantage: Blue Jays

Who better then Roy Halladay to get the Jays back on the winning track? Halladay is 8-1 on the season with a nifty 2.78 ERA in nine starts. He has thrown 68 innings, struck out 57 batters, and has one complete game.

Halladay is an inning eater for the Jays and Cito Gaston can be sure that he will get at least six or seven innings out of Doc every time he toes the rubber. Halladay is looking to win his second Cy Young this season after being narrowly beat out by Cliff Lee last year.

Halladay has a smooth, repeatable delivery with a low three-quarter arm slot. He has incredible command of his pitches including a low-90’s tailing fastball the can cut or sink, a very good change up, and a tight curve with a huge bite that can be thrown at any point in the count.

Kenshin Kawakami has had a tough rookie season for the Atlanta Braves this season. He is 2-5 this season with an awful 5.73 ERA in seven starts. He has thrown 37 and two-thirds innings and has struck out 35 batters.

Kawakami is a 33-year-old rookie who pitched in the Central league last year and managed a very good 2.30 ERA in 20 games (16 starts). Kawakami isn't overpowering, his fastball tops out at 90 mph. His control is good, but his windup isn't as deceptive as most Japanese pitchers, he gets by on his quality stuff.

His featured pitch is a cut fastball; he throws a slow curve at 65-70 mph and he changes speeds particularily well. This matchup is clearly in the Jays favor, so they should be able to get back on the winning track.

Game Two Pitching Preview: Casey Janssen (0-0) Versus Derek Lowe (5-2)

Advantage: Braves

I am very excited for this one. Casey Janssen will be making his first appearance in the MLB since his great stint as a relief pitcher in 2007. Janssen missed all of last year due to a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Janssen has been lights out in the minors so far this year and has finally earned his chance to become a fixture in the Jays rotation. Janssen has a deep arsenal and very good command of his pitches.

His pitches include a 90 mph two-seam fastball, a slider, change-up, and curveball. Janssen doesn't strike out many batters because of the lack of a true out pitch, so he induces a lot of ground ball outs.

Derek Lowe has been having a good season with the Atlanta Braves this year after signing with them in the offseason. He is 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in nine starts. He has thrown 55 and one-third innings this year, striking out 37 batters.

Lowe is another ground ball pitcher and is very good at it because of his sinker, which is one of the best in the big leagues. He needs a good defense behind him to help. The Jays would be smart to get base runners early, as he has trouble pitching from the stretch.

The Braves have a clear advantage here, especially considering that we have no clue what we are going to get from Casey Janssen. I, for one, am very excited to see him on Saturday.

Game Three Pitching Preview: Scott Richmond (4-2) Versus Jair Jurrjens (4-2)

Advantages: Braves

Scott Richmond, a 29-year-old rookie and the first Canadian to pitch for the Jays since Paul Quantrill, started off the season extremely well. Richmond was rewarded for his work with the AL rookie of the month award.

May started off well, but he started to struggle in the two starts after, going 0-2 and giving up ten runs in just nine and two-thirds innings pitched. He redeemed his self in his last start, throwing seven shut out innings.

Richmond has an array of pitches that include a four seam and two seam fastball, a slider, change-up, and curve. He uses his 12-6 curve ball against lefties to strike them out.

Jair Jurrjens has been a force for the Braves this season. He is 4-2 with an amazing 1.96 ERA. He has thrown 55 innings in nine starts, striking out 32 batters. Jurrjens is a 23-year-old rookie.

Jurrjens arsenal includes a heavy sinker in the low to mid 90's, along with good breaking stuff. He pounds the strike zone with his pitches and exhibits average control of his pitches.

The Braves have an advantage in the match-up, but Richmond has shown he is able to throw some very good games; this should be a good match up.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.