In looking at the pitching matchups against the Atlanta Braves, I noticed an opportunity for the Giants.
The Braves will send three starting pitchers against the Giants in this series, and none of them are named Tim Hudson or Jorge Sosa.
They don't get to dodge the bullet of John Smoltz, but missing Hudson and Sosa will have to do. Hudson is damned good and Sosa -- well, he's having a good year despite walking a lot of hitters (something the hack-happy Giants probably wouldn't take advantage of in any case).
The two pitchers they'll face not named Smoltz are Horacio Ramirez and Kyle Davies. Both aren't particularly impressive statistically, as Davies has a problem with the walk (issues a walk every other inning, on average), and Ramirez has a problem with the gopher ball (21 given up in 137 innings pitched). In addition, Ramirez has a horrible K rate, striking out less than three batters per nine innings (he actually has two more walks than strikeouts). Both pitchers are allowing opposing hitters a batting average in the .270's and an OPS in the high 700's.
Sounds like an opportunity to me.
Of course, the Giants aren't exactly sending up top-notch pitchers, either, but Brad Hennessey has put up some quality starts recently, and Kevin Correia...well, I don't think he's hurt himself or anything, so at least he's healthy. Correia hasn't been absolutely horrible, but he's got to cut down on the home runs and walks -- I mentioned Ramirez and Davies each having a problem with home runs and walks, respectively, well Correia has a problem with both, giving up homers at a higher rate than Ramirez and giving up walks at about the same rate as Davies.
Hennessey, too, has given up quite a few homers, but seems to have an "ability" to keep most of them to solo shots (perhaps he simply challenges hitters more when there isn't anyone on base, I'm not sure). However, Hennessey has looked good in four of his last five starts, so we'll see if he can keep that rolling.
The final game will be very interesting (well, more so if the Giants manage to not lose the first two) as Noah Lowry squares off vs. Smoltz. Lowry's numbers are really coming into line: his walk rate is getting pretty low (2.38/9 innings), his strikeout rate is very solid (7.99/9 innings), his WHIP is coming down to respectable levels (1.38 currently), and opponents are teeing off on him anymore (.250 batting average against, .402 SLG against).
Smoltz is, of course, Smoltz. It'll be interesting to see if this guy makes one more switch -- he's already went from starter to closer and back to starter -- but I want to see if he has enough left to reach a certain milestone.
He currently has 175 wins for his career, and I don't think it's a stretch to think that he can get to 200. However, he'll probably need the rest of this season, all of next season, and a bit besides to get there. The way he's going right now, I think that's definitely attainable.
He also has 154 career saves. I don't think it's a stretch to think that he could get to 200 saves in a bit over a season and change of work as a closer, but it's hard to envision him going back to that role unless he loses some effectiveness as a a starter -- and if he loses effectiveness as a starter, who's to say that won't mean he's losing it for good?
The reason why I bring this up is I cannot think of a pitcher who has 200 wins and 200 saves. I'm too lazy to look really deep into it, but the pitcher who came to mind first as a candidate who might was Dennis Eckersley, but as it turns out, Eck did have the 390 career saves, but only 197 career wins. Juuuust short. I couldn't think of any other successful closers who were also starters for a long period of time off the top of my head -- does anyone want to see if they can find a pitcher with 200 career wins and 200 career saves?
Oh, and Smoltz also is closing in on 3,000 strikeouts, another big milestone. With a little under 500 to go, I'd think he'd need another three full years as a starter to get there (performing, at least, at his current level). That one might prove to be tough, and stands less chance of happening if Smoltz does happen to go back to a closer's role anytime soon.
Should be fun...unless the Giants get their lunch money stolen again. Then, it won't be quite so much fun.