Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants Preview and Pick – Kawakami vs. Randy Johnson

Atlanta Braves (23-22) Kenshin Kawakami -108, 8 O/U at San
Francisco Giants (22-23) Randy Johnson -102, 8 O/U, AT&T Park,
San Francisco, Calif., 10:15 PM EST, Wednesday

by Badger of

San Francisco lefty Randy Johnson will make another attempt at
notching career win No. 299 tonight at AT&T Park when the Giants try
and complete the three-game sweep of the visiting Atlanta Braves. The
Braves will counter with Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami.

Johnson has been a roller coaster all season, unable to string
together consecutive good starts all year long and as a result he
hasnt earned a victory since his outing against the Washington
Nationals back on May 11th. When the future Hall of Famer has been
on, he can still deal with the best of them (3-1, 3.03 ERA in six of
his nine starts), but when hes not on he is very pedestrian (14.18
ERA in other 3 starts).

The Giants will also be going for their first series sweep since
early April. Last night Tim Lincecum held the Braves to just five
hits in a 4-0 victory by the Giants. Either way, the Giants will be
sad to see the Braves leave town tonight as they have now won four
straight versus them and six of their last seven dating back into
last season.

Baseball Sportsbooks are predicting a tough challenge for Johnson and
the Giants tonight however, as they are listing the home team as slim
-102 underdogs tonight with the Braves and Kawakami as -108
favorites on the moneyline. The over/under total is listed at 8 at
most offshore sportsbooks on the Internet.

The odds may be set against the Giants and Johnson tonight because he
is due for another dud start, that is if his performance this season
of on one start and then off the next holds true. In his last outing
against the Mariners, Johnson pitched 5.1 effective innings allowing
just 6 hits and a run before exiting a game the Mariners eventually
won 2-1 in 12 innings.

But his history against the Braves would indicate otherwise, as he is
a stellar 2-0 with a microscopic 0.41 ERA in his last three starts
against Atlanta. He also threw a perfect game against the Braves back
in 2004 when he was a Diamondback.

Kawakami has also had his share of issues this season, but he too
seems to have corrected some flaws in his game recently. In his last
outing the righty held the torrid Toronto Blue Jays lineup to just
three hits in eight shutout innings of a 1-0 victory (over Roy
Halladay). But if you are looking at his overall numbers (3-5, 4.73
ERA, 1.40 WHIP) you would not be impressed at all.

The key to Kawakamis resurgence has been control, as his .095 WHIP
would indicate in his last three outings. Over that span, hes only
allowed 13 hits and five walks (5 runs) in 19 innings of work.

Getting a read on these two teams offenses will be a real chore
tonight, because they seem to be going in opposite directions since
the series started Monday. The Giants, who came into the series as
losers of five of six, have been crushing the ball and have been led
by outfielder Aaron Rowand who is hitting .375 with 2 homeruns, 3
doubles and five RBIs in the last seven games. Overall the Giants are
29th in the league in scoring, averaging just 3.91 runs a game due to
their league-worst power numbers (.672 OPS, 25 HR).

The Braves on the other hand came into the series as winners of five
of six and were stroking the ball, but that has since changed as they
have only mustered 11 hits and two runs in the two games thus far.
Chipper Jones did return to the lineup last night and had one of the
Braves five hits, hes also has solid career numbers versus Johnson (.
394, 6 HR), so his return could just be the spark the Braves need.

As far as betting trends go, the under seems to be a very solid play
tonight. The under is 7-2 in San Franciscos last nine games overall.
The under is also 6-2 in Kawakamis eight starts this season, and 5-2
in the last seven games between these two teams head-to-head. Also,
home plate umpire Bill Miller is a pitchers ump, as the under is 6-1
in his last seven games behind the dish.

Badgers Pick: I went with the trend yesterday (taking Oswalt)
instead of my gut, and it backfired. So Im sticking with my gut
here. Randy Johnson will deal tonight and get #299, but so will
Kawakami. The Giants sweep the series in a low-scoring affair. Take
San Francisco at -102.