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Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Atlanta Braves

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All three games are 7:10 PM starts.

Tuesday, June 15: LHP David Price vs. RHP Kenshin Kawakami

Wednesday, June 16: RHP Wade Davis vs. RHP Tommy Hanson 

Thursday, June 17: RHP James Shields vs. RHP Tim Hudson

Oh boy. Maybe I'm being pessimistic, but the way the Rays are playing recently, I don't see this ending well. The Braves are a strong team - they're currently in first in the NL East with a 37-27 record - and they've been hot recently. They haven't lost a series since the beginning of May and they just beat the Twins in a three-game series. Oh, and we're facing some a darn good pitcher in Tommy Hanson (3.38 FIP), and two average ones in Tim Hudson (4.30 FIP) and Kenshin Kawakami (4.35 FIP). Good times indeed.

As if I haven't stressed it enough recently, the key for the Rays this series is pitching. Hanson is a dominant pitcher and will be tough to hit, but Hudson and Kawakami are both hittable and shouldn't pose a huge threat to the offense. If Shields and Price pitch well in those two starts, the Rays should be able to win them; if they don't, the Rays could be looking at losing yet another series.

Offensively, the Braves are an above-average team but not a scary one. Their bats are powered by the duo of Father Time and the WunderKid, also known as Troy Glaus (.386 wOBA) and Jason Heyward (380 wOBA). Brian McCann is putting up another good year behind the plate (.355 wOBA) and Chipper Jones has merely been average (.330 wOBA) so far this season, but will most likely improve as the season goes along (.254 BABIP). They've been the most patient team in the majors so far this year, drawing walks in 11.7% of their plate appearances, so the Rays' pitchers will need to pound the strike zone and avoid giving Heyward and Glaus good pitches to hit.

Oh, and we get to see our pitchers bat this series. C'mon Joe, give us some Sonnanstine action!