Dodgers, then Cards: At least Braves won’t face Greinke, Kershaw

Braves rookie Matt Wisler  (above) makes his sixth major league start Monday, facing former Brave Brandon Beachy, who'll make his second start for the Dodgers after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)
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Braves rookie Matt Wisler (above) makes his sixth major league start Monday, facing former Brave Brandon Beachy, who'll make his second start for the Dodgers after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)

 

The Braves have hit .208 and totaled 21 runs while going 1-7 in their past 8 games, including eight or fewer hits in seven games. And keep in mind, half of those eight games were played at hitter-friendly Coors Field, where the Braves totaled 11 runs while being swept in four games.

And Freddie Freeman is not walking through that door. At least not this week, from all indications we got on Sunday.

And now the Braves face the Dodgers, who have the second-best starters’ ERA (3.09) in the NL, before traveling to St. Louis to face the Cardinals and their majors-leading (by a wide margin) 2.66 overall ERA and majors-leading (against by a wide margin) 2.78 starters’ ERA.

Braves rookie Matt Wisler  (above) makes his sixth major league start Monday, facing former Brave Brandon Beachy, who'll make his second start for the Dodgers after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)

Braves rookie Matt Wisler (above) makes his sixth major league start Monday, facing former Brave Brandon Beachy, who’ll make his second start for the Dodgers after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)

The good news for the Braves: In the Dodgers series that starts tonight, they’ll avoid facing either member of the best 1-2 starting combo in baseball, major league ERA leader Zack Greinke (9-2, 1.30 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (7-6, 2.68). Instead they’ll get old friend Brandon Beachy, making his second start tonight in his comeback from a second Tommy John surgery, and a couple of other guys good enough to be in the top half of many starting rotations this season, lefty Brett Anderson (5-5, 3.17), and Mike Bolsinger (4-3, 3.04).

As for Kershaw and Greinke, they rank second and fifth in the NL in strikeout/walk ratio, respectively. Greinke leads major league starters in opponents’ batting average (.187), while Kershaw (.211) is tied for sixth in the league in that category. (Alex Wood (.299) has the  highest opponents’ average among qualified NL starters.)

But again, the Braves, after being no-hit through seven innings by Jon Lester on Saturday, mercifully won’t have to face either Kershaw or Greinke.

Since the Braves faced them in May, the Dodgers have gotten healthier and hit their stride recently, going 14-7 with a 3.08 ERA, 84 runs and 22 homers in their past 21 games, including 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA in their past eight games. They just took two of three from the Nationals in D.C. over the weekend, winning consecutive games Saturday and Sunday with Kershaw and Greinke winning duels against Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, respectively.

• JJ on trade front: With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looming, the Jim Johnson trade rumors are beginning to percolate, and will only continue to heat up until he’s moved or the deadline comes and goes. I would anticipate the former – he’s on a one-year contract, and the Braves will almost certainly get an offer too good to pass up for the veteran right-hander, who had consecutive 50-save seasons before bottoming out with a career-worst year in 2014.

He’s bounced back strong and is in the midst of his best extended run of good pitching all season.

The sinkerballer has not allowed a run in 17 appearances over the past six weeks, surrendering 13 hits and five walks with 10 strikeouts  in 17 2/3 innings and coverting all four save opportunities. Johnson had one multi-inning appearance in that stretch, when he allowed two hits and one walk in two innings at Pittsburgh on June 26.

And while he’s pitched a lot –his 45 appearances are only two fewer than the majors-leading 47 by the Braves’ Luis Aviland and the Cardinals’ Kevin Siegrist – it’s perhaps worth nothing that Johnson has thrown fewer than 15 pitches in 13 of his past 14 one-inning appearances. Pitching to contact, not piling up strikeouts. That’s what he does.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’ll be rookie Matt Wisler (3-1, 3.10 ERA) making his sixth major league start against Beachy, making his second start of the season and his first in Atlanta since going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts for the Braves in 2013 between elbow surgeries.

Beachy was pitching his best ball for the Braves in 2012, with a 0.963 WHIP and 2.00 ERA in 13 starts, before his elbow started barking. He’s had three arm surgeries since then, including two Tommy John procedures. He signed with the Dodgers this past offseason, and in his July 11 season debut he allowed five hits, three runs and three walks in four innings of a home loss against the Brewers.

This will be the 48th major league start for Beachy and just his 20th start since the beginning of the 2012 season. He’s 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 23 career starts at Turner Field.

Against Beachy, Nick Markakis is 3-for-3 and Kelly Johnson (1-for-4) is the only Brave with more than three official at-bats.

Wisler, after giving up nine hits and six runs (four earned) in four innings of his second start June 25 at Washington, is 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA and .226 opponents’ average in his past three starts. In his most-recent outing July 11 at Colorado, he gave up six hits and two runs with three walks and seven strikeouts in six innings and got no decision.

• Etc.

Dodgers rookie slugger Joc Pederson has 11 homers and 50 strikeouts in 144 at-bats on the road (43 games). He went 7-for-13 with a double in his first series against the  Braves in May at L.A….

Yasiel Puig, who was DL’d during the May series against Atlanta, has a .444 career average (20-for-45) with three doubles, a triple, three homers and eight RBIs in 11 regular-season games against the Braves, with a .510 OBP and .756 slugging percentage….

Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has hit .298 with seven homers and a .766 slugging percentage in 14 games this month, and has a .301 road average this season with seven homers, 27 RBis, a .396 OBP and .513 slugging percentage in 43 games.

Here’s one from the band once dubbed “the only band that matters”, and at that particular time an argument could be made in support of that bold statement. The mighty Clash.

“LONDON’S BURNING” by The Clash

The Clash

The Clash

London’s burning! London’s burning!

All across the town, all across the night
Everybody’s driving with full headlights
Black or white turn it on, face the new religion
Everybody’s sitting ’round watching television!

London’s burning with boredom now
London’s burning dial 99999

I’m up and down the Westway, in an’ out the lights
What a great traffic system – it’s so bright
I can’t think of a better way to spend the night
Then speeding around underneath the yellow lights

London’s burning with boredom now
London’s burning dial 99999

Now I’m in the subway and I’m looking for the flat
This one leads to this block, this one leads to that
The wind howls through the empty blocks looking for a home
I run through the empty stone because I’m all alone

London’s burning with boredom now…
London’s burning dial 99999


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