The Braves interleague "rivalry" would be more fun if they still played in Boston. The city could handle a second club -- the baseball world is much different than it was last time the Braves played off of Commonwealth Avenue -- but it's not like the Atlanta iteration is struggling to pay their bills, so that's simply a pipe dream. There's a part of me that wishes that, at some point when Major League Baseball is desperate to move a moribund franchise elsewhere, that they choose Boston, to give it the same kind of situation as Chicago and New York, where there are two clubs.
Anyone on the business side of the Red Sox might have just had a mild heart attack seeing that, because that would absolutely bring some competition to a town that's decidedly Soxian in nature, but that doesn't change the fact that it would be fun to have two shows around. Don't consider this a criticism of the remaining Boston club, either -- there's just something about the idea of two teams sharing a town, and the inherent and real rivalry that would emerge from that situation, that's appealing to the chaos-loving baseball fan in all of us.
Plus, it would make for quite the intriguing interleague series, instead of just a lengthy preamble full of wishes.
Game 1: Jair Jurrjens (16-1/3 IP, 0.8 K/BB, 44 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (87-1/3 IP, 2.7 K/BB, 91 ERA+)
Game 2: Randall Delgado (74-1/3 IP, 1.6 K/BB, 98 ERA+) vs. Franklin Morales (28-2/3 IP, 3.6 K/BB, 121 ERA+)
Game 3: Mike Minor (76 IP, 2.2 K/BB, 67 ERA+) vs. Clay Buchholz (86-1/3 IP, 1.7 K/BB, 75 ERA+)
Jurrjens lost his rotation gig, and has spent more of the season in Triple-A, where he also struggled. With Brandon Beachy undergoing Tommy John surgery, though, Jurrjens is back in the mix. He'll be taking on Lester, who has more strikeouts than innings pitched over his last four starts, but has also allowed a .390 batting average on balls in play in that stretch. How much is Lester's fault for living in the strike zone, and how much is the lack of fielding behind him, is something to watch for.
Randall Delgado is just 22 years old, and was a highly-touted pitching prospect heading into the year, but he's been mostly okay in his first real stint in the majors. Franklin Morales, who has been great in his stretched-out appearances in 2012, including his first start since 2009, will oppose him, in place of Josh Beckett, who is out with shoulder inflammation.
Mike Minor and Clay Buchholz have both struggled in 2012, but in different ways. Minor's peripherals are mostly promising -- hence the K/BB -- but he's allowing 1.8 homers per nine in 2012, and it's killing his season. Buchholz is allowing 1.6 per nine, but most of that damage came in the first month-plus of the season. Over the last eight starts, he's given up just five in 53-1/3 innings. Last time out was a little rough, but, as Ben Buchanan pointed out, that had more to do with some poor BABIP and a Logan Morrison that couldn't be contained (but arguably should never have had the chance, either).
As for the lineups, you know the deal with Boston: Will Middlebrooks is starting every few days so as to let Kevin Youkilis be seen by scouts from interested clubs, Adrian Gonzalez has played in the outfield against lefties, and now both Ryan Kalish and Cody Ross are back on the big-league roster. The Braves have seen some changes to their lineup this season -- Tyler Pastornicky is no longer the starting shortstop, with Andrelton Simmons taking those honors now -- but overall, they're below-average, with an OPS+ of 95 on the season.
They actually have plenty of productive hitters, but down years from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman, little help from the bench, and the awful 157 plate appearances from Pastornicky have taken their toll on the overall product. This lineup is capable of scoring runs, though, especially if Simmons keeps hitting like he has.
This is also the last stop at Fenway for one of my favorite hitters to watch, Chipper Jones. I might be rooting against the Braves in this series, but it would be fitting to see Chipper find some wall out in left in his last chance to do so. He's been a joy to watch, and has been around throughout the length of my baseball consciousness. It's going to be strange to have a game without Chipper Jones in it.