Braves, Rockies clash for top spot in National League

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The NL's two best teams will meet in Denver to decide once and for all who gets to lay claim to David Nied. And the NL's best overall record.

The Colorado Rockies weren't expected to be one of the teams tied for the best record in baseball 18 games into the season, but it's no surprise team with whom they share that distinction -- the Atlanta Braves -- are in that position. After acquiring both of the Brothers Upton and returning guys like Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, Atlanta was widely picked to make some noise, and they're doing just that.

While the Rockies have the second-best offense and second-best pitching staff in the National League (in terms of OPS+ and ERA+, respectively), the Braves have amassed the league's best staff and fourth-best set of bats. In addition to the guys above, Steve Avery, Jeff Blauser, Mark Lemke and Lonnie Smith must really be tearing it up this year but I'm not quite sure as I haven't watched much of the Braves. However, lucky for you, Tony Almeyda from Talking Chop has, so we brought him in to answer some questions about America's Team.

*****

Bryan Kilpatrick: Early returns on the Justin Upton-for-Martin Prado deal look good for the Braves. What are your overall thoughts on the deal?

Tony Almeyda: We were certainly sad to see Prado leave; he was a fan favorite and a darn good hitter, but when a player like Justin is made available, the temptation was irresistible. Having older brother B.J. already on the team certainly helped persuade him to join. This is a trade that helped both teams, in my opinion. Arizona got a heck of a ballplayer and teammate while the Braves fulfilled the need for a right-handed power-hitting outfielder.

BK: The series loss to the Pirates: Normal happenings of a baseball season, or are the Braves having issues?

TA: The fan in me was hating life 1,001 different ways after the game ended yesterday; the rationalist in me saw it as just an early bump in the road during a long season. Every team goes through this at some point or another, but the Braves are too good a team to go on any kind of prolonged losing streak; it's just that they came down to earth a bit after such a hot start.

BK: Is Evan Gattis good enough to end the Brian McCann era in Atlanta?

TA: 59 plate appearances to too small a sample size to consider Gattis as a better option than McCann. Gattis is undoubtedly a good hitter despite his recent 2-for-18 skid, and McCann is a free agent at the end of the season. If Gattis continues to hit like we know he can, he may make McCann expendable.

BK: Mike Minor isn't going to continue to walk half a batter per nine innings. However, has he turned a corner toward becoming an elite pitcher?

TA: I believe he has. His second half last year was amazing and he's continued that run this year. This is the pitcher we all thought he could be when he was progressing through the minors. He has stated that his struggles were attributed to trying to do too much and becoming rattled when something unfavorable happened. I think he's overcome that and we're all happy for him.

BK: Julio Teheran is really the only guy in the Braves rotation that is a bit of a question mark at this point, mostly because of his age and inexperience, plus the fact that he's struggled some through three starts. If he ends up needing more seasoning, who does Atlanta turn to for that last spot in the rotation?

TA: I don't think Teheran needs more time in the minors. It's my belief he was dominant in Spring Training because there was no pressure on him and was already the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the rotation, but now that he's a starter in the Majors, he's got a lot more eyes on him and maybe feels a bit nervous. We know how good he can be and once he turns the corner, he can be a dominant pitcher in the Majors.

But to answer your question, if Teheran should be sent down, the most logical choice I think would be Sean Gilmartin. Remember, Brandon Beachy is still rehabbing from elbow surgery and won't be ready until after the All-Star Break, but even then I doubt he'll be thrown into the rotation right away. Gilmartin is one of three viable options the Braves have in the minors along with J.R. Graham and Alex Wood, both of whom are at Mississippi, but I think Gilmartin is closest to being MLB-ready.

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Probable pitchers

Game 1: Monday, April 22 at 6:40 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)

Mike Minor (2-1, 0.95 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (1-1, 8.25 ERA)

Game 2: Tuesday, April 23 at 6:40 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)

Julio Teheran (0-0, 7.31) vs. Jon Garland (2-0, 3.32)

Game 3: Wednesday, April 24 at 1:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)

Tim Hudson (2-1, 4.50) vs. TBA

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Batting

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
Jordan Schafer 9 9 3 4 1 0 0 0 1 3 2 0 .444 .500 .556
Freddie Freeman 5 17 3 7 1 0 1 7 2 5 0 0 .412 .474 .647
Chris Johnson 16 59 8 24 4 0 2 7 2 10 0 0 .407 .435 .576
Julio Teheran 3 5 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .400
Tim Hudson 4 8 0 3 0 0 0 1 1 3 0 0 .375 .444 .375
Blake DeWitt 4 3 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667
Gerald Laird 7 20 0 6 2 0 0 2 3 1 0 0 .300 .391 .400
Justin Upton 18 67 15 20 4 0 9 13 10 21 3 0 .299 .385 .761
Juan Francisco 14 48 4 14 0 0 3 7 2 16 0 0 .292 .320 .479
Ramiro Pena 16 28 3 8 1 0 1 6 4 8 0 2 .286 .375 .429
Evan Gattis 15 52 7 13 3 0 5 12 5 12 0 0 .250 .322 .596
Andrelton Simmons 16 57 9 12 1 0 1 7 7 7 1 1 .211 .292 .281
B.J. Upton 17 66 5 11 3 0 2 3 6 22 3 1 .167 .247 .303
Dan Uggla 17 56 10 9 0 0 3 4 12 20 0 0 .161 .309 .321
Reed Johnson 12 16 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 .125 .176 .188
Jason Heyward 17 58 8 7 2 0 2 5 8 12 1 1 .121 .261 .259
Paul Maholm 4 11 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 7 0 0 .091 .091 .091
Kris Medlen 4 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Mike Minor 3 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Anthony Varvaro 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Cristhian Martinez 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Jordan Walden 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Eric O`Flaherty 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Luis Avilan 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Cory Gearrin 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Craig Kimbrel 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Luis Ayala 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000

Pitching

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
Cory Gearrin 0-0 9 0 0 0 0 0 8.2 4 0 0 0 3 7 0.00 .81
Craig Kimbrel 0-0 8 0 0 0 7 0 7.2 2 0 0 0 2 10 0.00 .52
Anthony Varvaro 1-0 6 0 0 0 0 0 9.1 5 0 0 0 2 7 0.00 .75
Mike Minor 2-1 3 3 0 0 0 0 19.0 15 2 2 1 1 16 0.95 .84
Paul Maholm 3-1 4 4 0 0 0 0 26.1 15 3 3 1 8 25 1.03 .87
Luis Avilan 1-0 6 0 0 0 0 0 5.1 5 1 1 0 3 3 1.69 1.50
Jordan Walden 0-0 6 0 0 0 0 0 5.1 7 1 1 0 0 5 1.69 1.31
Luis Ayala 0-0 4 0 0 0 0 0 4.1 2 1 1 0 2 4 2.08 .92
Eric O`Flaherty 3-0 9 0 0 0 0 0 8.2 4 2 2 0 3 4 2.08 .81
Kris Medlen 1-2 4 4 0 0 0 0 25.0 22 8 6 1 7 15 2.16 1.16
Tim Hudson 2-1 4 4 0 0 0 0 22.0 22 11 11 3 7 15 4.50 1.32
Julio Teheran 0-0 3 3 0 0 0 0 16.0 21 13 13 5 7 12 7.31 1.75
Cristhian Martinez 0-0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2.1 5 2 2 0 0 0 7.71 2.14


Atlanta Braves Injuries

Doubtful

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Dan Uggla calf 04/22/2013

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brandon Beachy elbow 03/22/2013
Paul Janish shoulder 03/23/2013
Brian McCann shoulder 03/23/2013
Jonny Venters elbow 03/27/2013
Freddie Freeman oblique 04/22/2013
Cristhian Martinez shoulder 04/07/2013
Blake DeWitt lower-back 04/20/2013

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