Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

Braves' centerfielder Andruw Jones (Getty Images)

In what very well could be the most anticipated three-game series in years, the Atlanta Braves head to Seattle after taking two of three from Oakland. Atlanta (44-20) is one game ahead of Seattle (43-21) for the top record in major league baseball. Safeco Field will be the place to be this weekend.

Safeco Field, Seattle, WA

Seattle (43-21, 17-11 home) 1st place: AL West
Atlanta (44-20, 20-11 away) 1st place: NL East

Friday, June 13, 7:05 p.m. FSN
Seattle: Freddy Garcia (R) (6-6, 5.00 ERA)
Atlanta: Russ Ortiz (R) (7-3, 4.03)

Saturday, June 14, 12:15 p.m. FOX
Seattle: Jamie Moyer (L) (10-2, 2.93)
Atlanta: Mike Hampton (L) (2-3, 4.05)

Thursday, June 15, 5:05 p.m. ESPN
Seattle: Gil Meche (R) (8-3, 3.32)
Atlanta: Greg Maddux (R) (5-5, 4.58)

NEWS & NOTES

The Braves and Mariners come into this series with the best record in their respective leagues. Only one game separates the two, with Atlanta holding the advantage. This is expected to possibly be a preview of what could be seen in late October. That is right; this could very well be a preview of the Fall Classic. The premier pitching match-up will come on Sunday when rising ace Gil Meche squares off against future Cooperstown inductee, Greg Maddux. This is also a game that will be shown to a national television audience as ESPN's game of the week. Saturday's game will also be broadcast nationally, featured on the FOX network as its game of the week. Jamie Moyer will be facing Mike Hampton.

WHO'S HOT?

Seattle:
Ichiro has had the highest average for the M's over the last week with an average of .464. Bret Boone also had a pretty good week with a homer and 3 RBI. Freddy Garcia was very impressive in his last start as he pitched a complete game and only gave up one run. Garcia has now won his last three starts and has lowered his ERA to 5.00. The Chief appears to be out of his early-season slump.

Atlanta:
The Atlanta Braves have won an unprecedented 11-straight division titles, and their success has centered around one thing - pitching. However this year's version is getting it done with a weak pitching staff and the best offense in MLB, something that they have lacked in the past. The Braves players are near the top in almost every offensive category including homeruns, hits, runs, and average. They are being led by about four players who are putting up career numbers. First of all, leading it off is Rafael Furcal, who has the same on base percentage as leadoff extraordinaire, Ichiro. This should be very interesting to watch with these two going against one another throughout the series. With Furcal getting on base as much as he does it sets up the big bats in the Braves order. Gary Sheffield is having a Triple-Crown like season. He is fourth in homeruns with 18, third in batting average at .345, and fourth in RBI with 54. Veteran catcher Javier Lopez is having a career-year with 19 long balls, putting him one off the lead in the NL. To show how incredible this season has been for J-Lo, he hit 11 homers all of last year. Andruw Jones is the other player leading the Braves offensive attack this season. Jones has 18 homeruns, tying him for fourth in the NL. As far as pitching goes John Smoltz leads the Majors in Saves with 25.


Richie Stone is the brain behind the series previews at InsidethePark.com. Let him know what you think at richietstone@aol.com.

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