The Jackets finish off their home schedule this weekend against Jim Morris's Miami Hurricanes. The Canes (or as some like me call them, the Cuban national team) come in ranked as high as 5th in the national baseball polls. The Jackets come in having won their last 4 games and are ranked as high as 6th in the polls.
This is a crucial series for both squads. The Jackets are 1 game behind Miami and Virginia in the ACC Coastal Division race. The Jackets need to get back on track in ACC play after dropping their last two series at N.C. State and versus Virginia Tech. With no mid-week games this week, Danny Hall has made a change to the weekend rotation that I've been hoping for since the Virginia Tech series by replacing Brandon Cumpton with Mark Pope as the Saturday starter.
Brandon has solid stuff, but I can't remember him having an easy first couple innings in any of our ACC series. He is the second coming of Zach von Tersch, who if y'all remember had the same problems in his career at Tech. Pope has been the Tuesday starter this season and has done a marvelous job. He comes into this weekend with record of 7-0 and a 3.53 ERA. Pope isn't your typical Danny Hall pitcher as he tends to go to the off-speed stuff first, fastball later. He should provide a good change of pace starting between power pitchers like McGuire and Jed Bradley.
Miami comes into this series having won their last 7 games, and 21 of their last 25. You really can't find a much hotter team in the country right now. The story starts with their Friday starter and reigning ACC Player of the Week Chris Hernandez and catcher Yasmani Grandal.
Hernandez, who gave us fits the last time the Canes came to Atlanta, comes in with a 7-2 record and 3.05 ERA. He will be a very tough matchup for us because of the way he can change speeds. The Miami offense revolves around Grandal. He is hitting a league leading .421, including an absurd .471 average in conference play. Think about that... he's getting a hit almost half the time he steps to the plate in the toughest conference in America. He can hit for power or for contact. Jackets fans, just resign yourselves to the fact that we are not going to stop this guy, we just have to limit his opportunities. I'm sure Danny Hall and Coach Kinkelaar will game plan around Grandal's chances to hurt us.
The immensity of this series cannot be overstated for the Jackets. We need to get back on track after dropping our last 2 ACC series. If you're in Atlanta this weekend, get to the Rusty C and make some noise for our boys!