Javier Vazquez will be playing the role of stopper on Thursday night against the Florida Marlins, hoping to reverse a two-game slide that has put the Atlanta Braves four games back of San Francisco, the NL Wild Card leader.
There's no reason to think that Vazquez won't be up to the task. Vazquez has taken very well to his return to the senior circuit this season. In 133 IP, Vazquez has struck out a remarkable 150 and walked just 27, yielding an ERA of 2.98. Some are still calling for Vazquez to be traded, but why would a team just four games out of a playoff berth deal away its best pitcher?
At just 24 years of age, Vazquez's opponent, Rick Vanden Hurk takes the hill with very little MLB experience. In his limited service, Vanden Hurk has been quite wild. In 11 IP this season, he's struck out 7 and walked 5. Vanden Hurk is also very prone to the longball (48% flyball rate).
Given the disparity in the pitching matchup, it's not unreasonable for Braves fans to be counting on a win tonight - but baseball's a funny game.