The Crystal (base)Ball: Giants vs Braves Preview

If you haven't seen Russ Ortiz in a Braves uniform this season, prepare to. Even though we won't see him pitch, the site of Russ sitting in Atlanta's dugout in that jersey is a disturbing sight. But get ready, because the Giants head out to Atlanta in this 3 game series.

Jesse Foppert takes the lead in the first game of this series against Brave staple Greg Maddux. Maddux, who pitched atrociously in his first couple of games this season (gave up 18 runs in his first three games and had an ERA of 11!), has since settled into his old rhythm of pin-point-accuracy pitching, lowering his ERA to 4.86 and giving up only 5 in the last three games. Barry Bonds and Benito Santiago have hit on him well, going yard 8 and 6 times respectively. Since May is looking like The Month for both of them, this could be good.

Kirk Rueter faces Horacio Ramirez on Saturday. Ramirez is 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA. A rookie, his wins this season have come against the Marlins and Expos, but he's pitched fine against Arizona in his last start. Rueter will have to deal with Gary Sheffield, who is batting over 4 against him with 3 homeruns to his name. Sheffield has been pretty hot as of late, going 3-7 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI's in the last two games. And with Chipper Jones following Sheffield in the lineup (C. Jones has 3 HR's against Woody), Rueter may have to be extra tricky to get the out and avoid a long ball. However, it will have been 5 games since the Braves have seen a starting lefty, and it may take a bit of time to adjust.

Sunday sees powerhouse Jason Schmidt against Mike Hampton. Schmidt has been positively outstanding since he came out of mourning, his fastball whiffing out guys like strikeouts were easy to throw. While he made mincemeat out of the Cubs and wasn't too shabby against the Marlins, the Braves may prove to be a bit harder to tame. C. Jones is hitting a whopping .516 with 4 HR and 11 RBI's against in 29 at-bats. Better still is the fact that the only win Mike Hampton had against the Giants last year was in Colorado (when the Giants were in a rut). The Giants are certainly not in a rut at the moment and Atlanta isn't known for it's high-flying balls, so it will be interesting to see if Barry Bonds and Marquis Grissom can add to their HR totals against Hampton (5 and 3, respectively).

Probably the most interesting match-up in the series will be the Giants Closer Triad (Worrell, Nathan and Rodriguez) against the National Leagues arguably best closer, John Smoltz. While Barry has given Smoltz what for in earlier meetings (8 HR, 3 2Bs and 14 RBI), many of these came while Smoltz was a starting pitcher- not a closer. Look to the 8th inning for a ray of sunshine- Colorado scored 8 of 10 runs in their 3-game series in the 8th.

Should the Giants come out on top for this series, they'll probably be more relaxed going home to face 3 against the terribly hot Montreal Expos and 4 against the just terrible NY Mets. But more on that to come.

Jillian Bailles d'Err writes for SFDugout.com and has been a Giants fan since 1988. She currently writes the column 'The Crystal (Base)Ball', a preview into upcoming Giants series. If you'd like to say hey, or comment about how amazingly insightful she is (or not), contact her at JayBird704@aol.com


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