It's an important series for the Atlanta Braves as they try to hunt down the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Game 2 of the set might also prove to be very crucial for Atlanta's Mike Minor who is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, and quite possibly on the big league roster.
Standing in both Minor's and the Braves' way Saturday afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET) will be Washington ace Stephen Strasburg.
The weekend started with the Nats leading the NL East and sitting 3.5-games ahead of the Braves and Mets in a second place deadlock. Atlanta was -120 in Friday night's series opener behind Randall Delgado. Washington was sending Ross Detwiler to the mound with a 9-run total.
This is the third meeting on the 2012 schedule between the two clubs, and second in Atlanta, with the Nationals owning a 4-1 advantage overall that includes a 3-game sweep of the Braves at Turner Field in late-May. Two of Washington's four victories also went into Strasburg's win column.
Strasburg made his first appearance ever at Turner Field on May 26 and didn't really have his 'A' game. The Braves scored four times in his five innings of work, and were helped along by four walks, the most Strasburg has allowed in a single start this year. He blanked Atlanta over seven innings as an encore in Washington on June 2, and just had a string of six wins snapped with a pretty decent performance at Coors Field (6 IP, 3 ER).
Minor would love to be coming off a loss that stopped a 6-game win streak, but the Braves are instead 1-6 in his last seven assignments and 6-8 overall with the lefty on the bump. He was the losing pitcher in that May 26 contest Strasburg won in Atlanta, posting just about the same linescore (5 IP, 4 ER) as Strasburg. The most alarming stat for Minor is 18 homers allowed in just under 81 innings, and he served up three his last time out to the Red Sox in Boston.
This was a level series from 2009-11 at 27-27. Washington's sweep in Atlanta earlier this year was the first at Turner Field since a 4-game broom job at the end of the '09 campaign, and left the clubs 15-15 in the last 30 on this diamond entering Friday's contest.
Mets & Dodgers Continue 4-Game Set At Chavez Ravine
The New York Mets moved into a tie with the Braves for second in the NL East following a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of their 4-game series on Thursday. New York's win came as a +115 underdog, and the loss dropped the reeling Dodgers from the top spot in the NL West for the first time since April 11.
Game 2 of the series was still pending with a Friday night pitching matchup between New York's RA Dickey and LA's Aaron Harang. The Mets were 135 favorites with a 6½-run total.
If the Dodgers can't break through Friday against Dickey, they will face an even tougher task on Saturday when they take on Mets southpaw Johan Santana in a 7:15 p.m. (ET) start that is part of the MLB on FOX regional broadcast schedule. Los Angeles is slated to send young Nate Eovaldi to the bump at Chavez Ravine.
Santana hasn't seen the Dodgers often, but he has beat 'em like a rented mule when he has crossed their path. Dating back to his days in Minnesota, Santana is a perfect 4-0 in his four assignments vs. LA, allowing just two earned runs in nearly 28 innings (0.65 ERA). His lone start in Los Angeles ended with a 7-IP, 1-ER linescore.
One concern this time around, however, is Santana's home-road splits for 2012. The Mets have won only two of his seven road starts while Santana sports a 5.80 ERA outside of Queens.
Then again, the Dodgers are winless in Eovaldi's six assignments, including the two he has made in LA. He pitched well enough to have won the first five after replacing Ted Lilly in the rotation, but was lit up this past Monday in San Francisco when the Giants touched him for eight runs and 10 hits over five frames.
Thursday's 3-2 final marked the 10th 'under' between the two teams in the last 12 games played at Dodger Stadium, a span that dates to the 2009 season. The series wraps up Sunday night on ESPN with Dillon Gee expected to battle LA ace Clayton Kershaw.