After losing two of three to the team with the best pitching in baseball, the Rockies return home to face the team with the second-best staff. All five of the Braves' starters have a 3.68 ERA or lower at this point in the season; the staff's overall figure is a cool 3.01. If there's a soft spot in the bullpen it's closer Dan Kolb, who has posted nine saves despite a 1.85 WHIP and 5.54 ERA. The Rockies, who will face Tim Hudson, John ("No P" ) Thomson, and John Smoltz on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday respectively, will be lucky if they reach the ninth inning of any of the games within three runs.
Atlanta's bats aren't as scary as their arms. The Braves rank 11th in the NL with a .744 team OPS, and 13th in OBP (.323). Then again, they are coming off a 16-0 deconstruction of the struggling Astros (who have only a single road win this year, one fewer than the Rockies) to complete a four-game sweep with an aggregate score of Atlanta 38, Houston 8. Chipper Jones is playing back at his 1999-2001 form, hitting .349/.472/.640 with five homers. However he's been carrying the team basically by himself, as other expected key contributors like Rafael Furcal (.295 OBP), Johnny Estrada (1 homer), and the corner outfield duo of Brian Jordan (.632 OPS) and Raul Mondesi (.592 OPS) have been terrible or worse. At this point Mike Hampton (7 for 20 with a homer) is the second-best hitter on the team, with apologies to Marcus Giles. And Hampton isn't pitching in this series.
The Rockies will send Jamey Wright to the mound in the Monday night game, throw Jason Jennings on Tuesday night, and pitch Joe Kennedy in Wednesday's day tilt. This is a series where the Rockies need to use their home-field advantage to the hilt, scoring early to get into the heads of the opposition's hurlers. Good luck with that as far as Hudson and Smoltz are concerned. To cue up the broken record again, the Colorado starters need to not walk batters and stay in games late. Hopefully Joe Kennedy can get past his terrible performances in day games thus far (10.57 ERA) and likewise Jamey Wright can overturn his great-on-the-road (1.37), apocalyptic-at-home (13.94) trend.
The Braves are a first-place team, and playing like it. The Rockies are a last-place team, and playing like it. Winning this series would be a nice surprise, and the most impressive accomplishment for this young team since humbling the Dodgers 4/22-23. Let's go put the pride back in the purple.