The Braves and Blue Jays may be kicking off a new age-type Interleague series on Monday, but the pitching matchup for the series opener will have a very old-school feel to it.
As the clubs open a first-of-its-kind home-and-home series Monday in Toronto, the red-hot Braves -- winners of eight of their last nine games -- will send veteran right-hander Tim Hudson to the mound to square off against Jays veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle. The teams will play in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday before traveling to Atlanta to close out the four-game series on Wednesday and Thursday.
Together, Hudson and Buehrle have combined for 376 regular-season victories and 3,406 strikeouts over 29 total seasons of big league experience.
Unfortunately for Buehrle, he's only contributed one win to that total so far in 2013. The southpaw is off to a rocky start in his first season north of the border, though he has recently started to show signs of a turnaround.
Despite being winless since April 15, when he defeated his former White Sox club for his lone victory, Buehrle has turned in three consecutive solid outings. The most recent came on Wednesday, when he limited the Rays to two runs on four hits over seven innings, marking his third straight start in which he entered the seventh inning having allowed two or fewer runs.
"I look at the team win-loss record," Buehrle said after taking a no-decision as the Jays went on to defeat the Rays, 4-3, in extra innings. "Obviously, as a starting pitcher, you want to go out and try to win 20 games a year. But so much stuff has to happen. My goal is to go deep in games and good things are going to happen.
"Listen, I'd like to be 5-1 right now. I'm not. I'm 1-3. But as long as we're winning my starts, I'm going out there giving our team a chance to win, that's all I can ask for."
And while Buehrle still sports an unsightly 5.90 ERA through 10 starts, Toronto has won three of the last four games in which he's toed the rubber and six times in his 10 outings overall.
As for Hudson, he's looking for a turnaround of his own after a recent slide following his impressive start this season. The 37-year-old stormed out to a 4-1 record to go along with a 3.83 ERA through his first seven starts this season.
The last three haven't gone nearly as well, with Hudson going 0-2 with an 8.56 ERA to raise his season ERA all the way up to 4.98.
In his last outing against Minnesota, he showed grit, lasting five innings despite the fact that rain and multiple outages of the stadium lights led to a 76-minute delay in the third inning.
"Honestly, it was never an option [to come out]," Hudson said. "If it had been another 20-minute delay, it might have been an issue. It's just one of those things where we had to get things going. Our bullpen is thin and the last thing you want to do is put six or seven innings on your bullpen with an [early] game [the following day]."
Braves: Freeman locked in with runners in scoring position
• First baseman Freddie Freeman is hitting .486 (17-for-35) with runners in scoring position. That average is the best among National League hitters with at least 10 at-bats in those situations.
The success with runners in scoring position has helped Freeman rack up a team-leading 30 RBIs.
"I don't know what the deal is when there is a guy in scoring position; I don't know if I concentrate harder or what the deal is," Freeman said. "But I want to get those guys in."
• Atlanta is 20-3 (.870) this season when scoring first in games.
Blue Jays: Bonifacio finally settling in
• It's no secret that Emilio Bonifacio's start with the Jays this season was nothing short of disastrous. Yet Bonifacio, acquired this past offseason from the Marlins, seems to finally be finding his stride at the plate.
After starting the year just 13-for-83 (.156) in his first 30 games, Bonifacio is hitting .316 (12-for-38) with two home runs, seven RBIs and seven runs scored over the last 12 contests. The reason, Bonifacio said, for his recent success at the plate has been the more consistent playing time he's received at second base, as he has started 12 of the club's last 13 games.
"I feel pretty good, especially since I've been playing a little more," Bonifacio said. "I've been seeing the pitch a little bit better. I'm able to recognize everything [coming out of the pitcher's hand], so I think that's the key."
• Adam Lind went 2-for-5 on Sunday and has recorded a multihit game in four straight games and in six of his last 10.
• The Braves and Jays have split their first 30 meetings evenly, 15-15, though Atlanta has won eight of the last nine dating back to 2009.
• Third baseman Chris Johnson leads the Braves with 15 multihit games this season and his six games of three or more hits are tied for third in the NL. He has hit safely in each of his last seven starts.