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[CNNSI] Astros vs. Braves Preview

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by Svpernaut, Oct 4, 2005.

  1. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    Some pretty interesting stats on the page, visit the link for the full scoop.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/john_donovan/10/03/astros.braves/index.html
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    Heavy rotation: Can Astros' pitching negate other woes vs. Braves?
    Posted: Monday October 3, 2005 11:16PM; Updated: Monday October 3, 2005 11:38PM

    Starting Pitching
    HOUSTON: The Big Three now reside in Space City, where the Rocket, Roger Clemens (13-8, a baseball-best 1.87 ERA), buddy Andy Pettitte (17-9, 2.39) and third musketeer Roy Oswalt (20-12, 2.94) all finished with ERAs in the National League's top 10. That's doggone impressive, as they say in Houston. We can talk about Brandon Backe if you want, but do we really have to? The Big Three, even with a sore Clemens, give the Astros the best rotation in the league.

    ATLANTA: Injuries have sapped the normally pitching-strong Braves of much of their starting strength. Tim Hudson (14-9, 3.52 ERA) will start Game 1 against Houston to give Game 2 starter John Smoltz (14-7, 3.06) a little more rest for an aching shoulder. Then it's the surprising Jorge Sosa (13-3, 2.55), a hard-thrower who has filled in admirably for the sidelined Mike Hampton and the still-hurting John Thomson.

    EDGE: Astros

    Relief Pitching
    HOUSTON: Heat-throwing closer Brad Lidge (41 saves, 102 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings) is one of the best in the business. A lot of the credit for his success has to go to a pair of right-handed setup men, Chad Qualls (21 saves, 3.32 ERA) and Dan Wheeler (16 holds, 2.24). Only the Phillies' pen, with former Astros closer Billy Wagner, is harder to hit against than Houston's (a .249 batting average, compared to Philly's .239)

    ATLANTA: The offseason trade for closer Dan Kolb enabled Smoltz to move back to the rotation. Well, at least the deal half worked out. Kolb (seven blown saves, a .329 batting average against) won't make the postseason roster, giving way to new closer Kyle Farnsworth (10 straight saves, a 2.05 ERA in Atlanta), acquired in a midseason trade with the Tigers. Chris Reitsma (13 holds, a 3.93 ERA), good sometimes and bad others, will remain the setup man, in all likelihood, while Horacio Ramirez could come out of the rotation to help.

    EDGE: Astros

    Lineup
    HOUSTON: If not for third baseman Morgan Ensberg (36 homers, 100 RBIs), the Astros probably would never have made the trip from 15 games under .500 to the wild card. The Astros are a sputtering offensive team, though they have four guys with at least 20 homers (Ensberg, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Jason Lane). They rarely get on (a miserable .256 batting average and .322 on-base percentage), and when they do, nobody can get them in (.234 in close and late situations).

    ATLANTA: Andruw Jones' breakout year (51 homers, the most in baseball, and 128 RBIs) has some people talking MVP. The Braves were one of the best-scoring teams in the league thanks to Jones and Chipper Jones (20 homers, 71 RBIs and a team-best .957 OPS in 108 games). The real secret to Atlanta's hitting, though, lies at the top of the lineup with shortstop Rafael Furcal (46 stolen bases, 100 runs scored) and second baseman Marcus Giles (104 runs, a .293 average). Without them, the numbers for the Jones kids would be a lot worse. Rookie Jeff Francoeur (.302, 14 homers in 69 games) will be interesting to watch in October. He continued a steady decline from his high-flying debut in July (.413) with a .247 September.

    EDGE: Braves

    Defense
    HOUSTON: The Astros rank high in fielding percentage, but it's strange to see. They have a former infielder playing left (Chris Burke), a rookie in center (Willy Taveras) who has speed but makes bad judgments on occasion, a third baseman with limited range (Ensberg), a still gimpy first baseman (Berkman) and an aging second baseman (Biggio). The best glove on the field belongs to shortstop Adam Everett.

    ATLANTA: Andruw Jones still plays one of the better, if not best, center field games in the business. He's even more valuable than ever with rookies flanking him most of the time. Up the middle, the Braves are hard to beat, with Giles and the strong-armed Furcal. Chipper Jones can make some plays at third, too, but the Braves are ouchy behind the plate because of Johnny Estrada's chronically sore back.

    EDGE: Braves

    Bottom Line
    We know the Braves will have trouble scoring against that Houston pitching staff. The question here is whether the wimpy Astros can score enough off the beat-up Braves to win their second straight division series against Atlanta. The Braves owned the Astros during the season (5-1), winning games started by Clemens, Oswalt and Pettitte (their only loss was to Backe). But that was backe in April -- sorry, back in April -- and early May. A lot has changed since then. Hmmmm. Strong lineup vs. awesome staff. Or weak lineup vs. weakened staff. It's close. But you have to go with the pitching in this one.

    PREDICTION: Astros in five
     
  2. rrj_gamz

    rrj_gamz Contributing Member

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    Agree with them as everyone's on the bandwagon...The Stros' are set for greatness...One game at a time...
     
  3. PhiSlammaJamma

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    You look at those Altanta era's and it's scary. They have great pitching too. It'll be a dogfight.
     
  4. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    The key is getting to their horrible bullpen.
     

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