Courtesy of Stephen Nover
Blue Jays @ Braves
Unlike NBA and NFL, where a superstar or elite quarterback being out results in a massive point spread difference, few everyday baseball players affect the money line.
Freddie Freeman is one such player. He was hit in the left wrist by a pitch yesterday and won’t play today. It’s not just Freeman putting up MVP numbers: an NL-best 14 homers, .341 batting average, .457 on-base percentage and an OPS of 1.211. The Braves have no one who can come close to adequately replacing Freeman. He is by far their best player. Light-hitting middle infielder Jace Peterson had just moved to third with Adonis Garcia on the DL. Now Peterson is likely to temporarily play first like he on Wednesday after Freeman was hurt. That was Peterson’s first time playing first base in his career. So the Braves suffer a double whammy – losing their best hitter and taking a hit defensively.
This is going to be a tough game for the Braves to be mentally focused. Not only is their concentration going to be off wondering about the status of Freeman, who had played every inning in every game until getting hurt, but the team is foaming at the mouth. The Braves are seething not only about Freeman getting hit by a pitch, but what they perceive as the hot dog antics of Jose Bautista, who is one of the more despised players in baseball. Toronto, by contrast, is in stop-the-pain mode. The Blue Jays appeared to be turning their season around winning five in a row – until facing the Braves. Toronto is 0-3 in this series having lost the first two games at home to the Braves while falling, 8-4, in Atlanta last night. This is the Blue Jays’ last chance to salvage a game in the series. The Blue Jays aren’t just favored, though, because Freeman is out. They have a pitching edge with a matchup of Marcus Stroman versus Julio Teheran. Stroman has turned in six quality starts in his eight outings. He has a 2.87 ERA in his last five starts holding opponents to two runs or fewer in four of those starts.
The Braves have never faced Stroman, giving him an element of surprise. Stroman has a proven track record during interleague going 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 games versus NL foes, including eight starts. Atlanta is 15-20 versus right-handed starters. Teheran threw six shutout innings in a 3-1 victory during his last outing this past Saturday. That was against the light-hitting Marlins at pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. The buy sign is not there yet on Teheran. He still hasn’t proven he can pitch well at Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park. Teheran is 1-3 with a hideous 8.14 ERA in four home starts this season. Early returns of SunTrust Park are that it is far more of a hitter’s park than Turner Field because of the way the ball carries. Teheran hasn’t solved his new park. The Braves haven’t been a good play when Teheran pitches at home in quite a while going 5-17 during his past 22 home starts.
Teheran has been less than stellar in interleague games, too, going 3-8 with a 4.87 in 14 contests versus the AL. He has a 6.60 ERA in three games against Toronto. The Blue Jays raked him for five homers in 15 innings. Toronto has been disappointing up to this point. Not having Josh Donaldson hasn’t helped. But the Blue Jays still have more wins that Atlanta. The Braves are in rebuilt mode. Minus Freeman they are near expansion bad.
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