Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves

USA TODAY Sports

After taking two of three from the Phils, the Amazins look to continue division dominance against the first place Bravos.

What's going on with the Braves

The Braves won their first game after the All-Star break against the White Sox, but they dropped the next two to lose the series. Atlanta, however, did not lose any ground in the standings thanks to the Mets beating the Phillies and the Nationals getting swept by the Dodgers.

During Saturday's 10-6 loss to the White Sox, Braves starter Paul Maholm was ineffective and he eventually left the game with a sprained wrist. It's not certain yet that Maholm will land on the disabled list, but Talking Chop is lobbying for Alex Wood to be called up to replace Maholm in the rotation on Thursday.

Maholm isn't the only Atlanta pitcher whose spot in the rotation is in jeopardy. For weeks, the buzz has been that Kris Medlen will be moved back to the bullpen to make room for Brandon Beachy. Beachy has been rehabbing in the minor leagues this season in an effort to come back from Tommy John surgery, and he's nearly ready for the big leagues, where he was dominant in 2012 with a 2.00 ERA in 81 innings. Of course, Medlen was even better during his 2012 rotation stint, which brings the question: Is it fair to kick Medlen out of the rotation because of one crappy stretch in July?

If you're keeping score at home (and Gary Cohen would love it if you were), there will be seven starting pitchers available for Atlanta and only five rotation jobs. As we get close to the trade deadline, this situation will just get more interesting. Meanwhile, the Mets get a front row seat to the drama, as the Braves' starter in Thursday's game could tell us a lot about the team's decision-making going forward.

Who are these guys?

Joey Terdoslavich is a switch-hitting rookie outfielder who was called up earlier this month when Jordan Schafer hit the disabled list with an ankle injury. Considered a top-20 prospect for Atlanta heading into the season, Terdoslavich crushed at Triple-A Gwinnett with a .318/.359/.567 line before his call-up. With the Braves, Terdoslavich has already started at both corner outfield spots as well as at first base, so he'll probably find his way into the lineup at some point this weekend.

Luis Avilan only has 75 MLB appearances under his belt, but the 24-year-old Venezuelan lefty leads the Atlanta bullpen in games played this season. Last season, Avilan proved he was ready for the bigs with 33 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 innings pitched. This season, in a slightly larger sample, Avilan has somehow seen his ERA and WHIP drop with both his strikeout and walk rates moving in the wrong direction. In 39 innings this season, he's only struck out 20 batters while walking 16, and yet Avilan has an ERA of 1.38 to go with a 0.92 WHIP. A big reason for that is Avilan's 54-percent ground ball rate and his zero home runs allowed. In fact, Avilan has only allowed a single home run in his entire major league career.

Who's on the mound?

The Braves are sighing in relief right now because the only Mets rotation member that they don't have to face is Matt Harvey. Still, the Mets have been playing well lately and this series should be a fun way to get us through the week. Plus, the Braves aren't yet sure who will be starting on Thursday, and who doesn't love a good mystery?

Monday: Julio Teheran vs. Dillon Gee

With such a roster squeeze taking place for Atlanta in the rotation, you'd think the 22-year-old Teheran would be hearing his name come up more as a candidate for the bullpen or for demotion. Instead, the Braves have been quite pleased with the rookie's performance. Teheran has 94 strikeouts, 23 walks, and a 3.35 ERA this season despite a rough start to the season that saw him allow 13 runs in his first 16 innings. He wasn't terrific in his last start against Cincinnati, but Teheran has shown over the course of the season that he is capable of dominating. Against the Mets on May 26, he allowed just one run in 6.2 innings.

Tuesday: Kris Medlen vs. Carlos Torres

The Mets are hoping that Torres can be their own version of Medlen in 2013. Last season, the 5'10" righty came out of the bullpen and was all kinds of ridiculous as a starter. From July 31 to September 30, Medlen made 12 starts, and the Braves were victorious in each of them. He even went four starts in a row without allowing an earned run! In 2013, though, the magic is not as apparent. Medlen's strikeouts per nine are down from 7.83 to 6.81 and he's also walking about one more batter per nine innings. While his overall performance (3.64 ERA, 4.06 xFIP) has been far from useless, Medlen's 7.63 ERA in three July starts have many calling for a trip back to the bullpen. He's going to be pretty motivated to pitch well in this upcoming start.

Wednesday: Tim Hudson vs. Jeremy Hefner

Now in his ninth season with the Atlanta organization, Hudson is continuing to do Hudson-like things. He's getting ground balls around 55 percent of the time and is limiting home runs, which are things that allow him to be effective despite unspectacular strikeout and walk rates. Although boring old Tim Hudson has a higher ERA than fun little Kris Medlen, Hudson's cranky veteran status will allow him to certainly keep his spot in the rotation once Atlanta's situation has settled itself. In two starts against the Mets this season, Hudson has 13 strikeouts and four walks in 14.1 innings with just four runs allowed.

Thursday: Paul Maholm (?) vs. Zack Wheeler

Maholm is like the opposite of Teheran this season. For one, he's been around the majors for a while. For another, his first three starts of 2013 were fantastic, and he's been pretty "meh" ever since. In fact, lately he's been rather horrible. Maholm has allowed 15 earned runs in 13.1 July innings with seven strikeouts and seven walks. Plus, he suffered a minor wrist injury in his last outing against the White Sox. He might not have to go on the DL, but the Braves might put him there anyway to loosen up their roster flexibility. If that happens, Alex Wood or Brandon Beachy will be starting here. Wood has been very good as a lefty out of the pen this season (2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), while Beachy is right-handed and would be making his first MLB start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

What about some GIFs?

Here's Zack Wheeler striking out seven Braves during his MLB debut back on June 18. It seems the youngster is having trouble controlling his breaking stuff so far in major league action, but boy is that fastball a doozy.

2013-06-18_zack_wheeler_debut_medium

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