The series opener is a game of firsts for both squads. This is the home opener for San Francisco who swept Houston in their building and this the first road game of a new campaign for Atlanta who won series over Chicago.
The Braves might be without one of their top sticks in the lineup as Chipper Jones strained his oblique muscle in batting practice yesterday and was forced out of the game on Thursday. Depending on the severity, he could miss one game or the entire series. That means others have to step up in his place like Brian McCann or rookie Jason Heyward for Braves club that is 29-47 on the road the last two years in the first half of the season.
DiamondSportsbook.com has Atlanta as -110 money line favorite with total Un8 for this afternoon opener. The Braves ended last season winning 21 of last 28 road contests and is 9-3-1 UNDER in game one of series. The Giants are in potentially negative spot, with 9-23 record with Sanchez as underdog starter and they were 15-5-3 OVER as home pooch.
Game 1 Edge: San Francisco
The early part of the schedule is perfect time for manager’s to get their whole roster involved. The Braves website is suggesting that could be true. Catcher McCann is expected to be off in the series afternoon opener after catching a night game. McCann should be back in the batting order on Saturday. Fourth outfielder Matt Diaz is presumed to play in at least one game and Omar Infante is expected to fit in somewhere in the infield.
There has been conflicting reports about who the game two starter will be, however Derek Lowe is on normal rest, thus he’s expected to take the mound. Lowe allowed five earned runs in six innings against Chicago on Opening Day and didn’t look completely at ease with the changes he’s made in delivery to get more sink on his pitches. The Braves won Lowe’s last four road starts in 2009 and he’s 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last nine starts against the Giants.
San Francisco is expected to counter with fifth start Todd Wellemeyer, who made the club as a non-roster invitee, beating out a couple of top prospects for the job, at least for now. The 31-year old righty was cut loose by St. Louis after 7-10 season (5.89 ERA), which saw him surrender 160 hits in 122 1/3 innings, including 19 that went over the fence. Expect Atlanta to load up with left-handed bats since that is really a troublesome area for Wellemeyer. Possibly the Giants can hit their way to a victory and they are 6-2 at home against right-hand starters to begin the series.
Game 2 Edge: Atlanta
Tim Lincecum is expected to close the series for Giants in afternoon action and was dazzling in his initial start of the season. The two-time Cy Young winner looked intent on a third, hurling seven shutout innings, conceding four hits –all singles, fanning seven Houston batters and walking none. He will look to master the Braves lineup and is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in six career starts against the Atlanta.
Bobby Cox could counter Lincecum with Kenshin Kawakami, his fifth starter. The Japanese right-hander was 7-12 with 3.86 ERA last season and earned the nickname “Dragonslayer” in out-pitching Roy Halladay and Ervin Santana last year for wins. He’ll have his chance to enhance that image against San Fran’s ace, being you typical Far East pitcher with array of fastballs, late-breaking sliders and downward curveballs, unafraid to throw any or all pitches on any count. Kawakami will get smoked if he throws the ball over the plate.
Game 3 Edge: San Francisco
The key to the series is first game, as the latter two contests have team aces up against No. 5 starters. Both bullpens have been sharp to start the year so not much difference there. For this series we’ll give the nod to the Giants because of history in the Bay Area. San Francisco has won four in a row over Atlanta and seven of eight at AT&T; Park.