With the offense surging, the Braves had a solid opportunity to do some damage against the Marlins on Monday. However, despite ten strikeouts by starter Huascar Ynoa, Atlanta’s bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as the Braves dropped Game 1 of its four-game series versus Miami.
Coming off an impressive start back on April 7 against the Nationals, in which he struck out five and allowed just two hits in five innings, Ynoa again leaned on his fastball/slider combination against the Fish on Monday night.
A lead-off double to begin the game and a lead-off homer by former Brave Adam Duvall in the second inning were the only two mistakes from the 22-year-old righty. Working rather efficiently, Ynoa’s six-inning outing required just 82 pitches (55 strikes), and his final line was a dandy — 6 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 10 K.
Diving deeper into Ynoa’s success from Monday, it’s apparent that he wields a real two-pitch weapon with his 97-MPH four-seam heater and 85-MPH slider. Of his 14 whiffs on the day, all but one came from those two offerings, including a 54% whiff rate with the fastball. The strategy was simple for Ynoa: spot his nearly 100 MPH heat up at the top of the zone, then bury the breaking ball to change the opposing batter’s eye level completely.
This is what Huascar Ynoa's 10 strikeouts look like on Statcast pic.twitter.com/azLZuGybVB
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) April 13, 2021
But unfortunately, after leaving the ball game having tossed a quality start with the Braves up 2-1, Ynoa’s dominance on the mound once again couldn’t be preserved.
Relievers A.J. Minter and Nate Jones combined to walk five batters in the eighth inning, including three free passes in a row by the former, which resulted in two runs for the Marlins. And in the tenth, with Will Smith seemingly finding his groove having flown through the ninth frame unscathed, reliever Jacob Webb surrendered three consecutive hits, including an RBI single by Garrett Cooper and an RBI double by Brian Anderson.
The loss from Monday is certainly frustrating. That makes two games in a row in which the Braves bullpen has allowed multiple runs. However, it’s obvious that Ynoa has slotted himself as the rotation’s fifth starter for now, and the upside surrounding his stuff is exciting. Just like in that aforementioned start versus Washington, Ynoa gave Atlanta a strong chance to win against the Marlins on Monday night, and that’s all he’ll be expected to do going forward.
Acuna continues to rake
With a 1 for 2 performance on Monday, that’s four straight games with a hit, including six of his last seven as Ronald Acuna is now slashing .447/.500/.947 for the season with four home runs and eight RBI.
Acuna has obviously been showing off the bat from Day 1 this season, but against Miami on Monday, he showed off his speed, scoring from third base on a sac-fly by Albies that was hit just behind second base. The run gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in the third.
Who knows how long this will actually last, but right now, Acuna is playing about as good as ever. He entered last night’s game tied for second-place in fWAR (0.9), and his 259 wRC+ was fifth in the majors. What’s exciting, too, is the fact that what Acuna’s doing appears to be quite sustainable, given his K rate sits at just 15.4%, and his HardHit% is a whopping 64.5%. Of course, some regression will come, but this isn’t some crazy luck-driven hot streak for Acuna. This kid is hunting for an MVP in 2021.
Hopefully, Ozuna will get going soon
Heading into the game, having tallied just two hits in his last 19 at-bats, it was a welcoming sight when Marcell Ozuna hit a 107.4-MPH line-drive single to score Acuna to give the Braves an early lead against the Marlins. His knock was the second-hardest hit ball of the game, according to Statcast.
It’s been a rough start so far for Ozuna. And against the Fish, he was featured in a FanGraphs piece as the biggest underperformer in the majors in OPS relative to his ZiPS projection for the season. Ozuna’s first-inning single was his only hit of the game, but sometimes all it takes is one solid, barreled hit to get the juices flowing again.
Despite an 0 for 5 performance against the Marlins, Freeman appeared to be heating up prior to yesterday’s contest, homering in back to back games; Albies has hit the ball hard all season so far; and Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson have both, despite their poor AVGs, had some big hits too. Add Ozuna to that list, and the Braves should score runs in bunches more consistently, which will take some much-needed pressure off a bullpen that’s not really performing as well as needed.
Next up: Tuesday’s Game 2 between the Braves and Marlins will feature a righty versus lefty matchup as Miami’s Pablo Lopez will face Atlanta’s lefty Max Fried. Lopez is coming off a strong outing against the Cardinals in which he went 6.2 innings and struck out six while allowing two runs from just three hits. Meanwhile, Fried had an uncharacteristic performance last time out, only lasting two innings versus the Nationals, featuring five runs from eight hits.
Every pitcher will have a poor outing from time to time, so there’s no reason to be concerned about Fried yet. He’ll have a chance to redeem himself on Tuesday, though Miami’s lineup does feature quite a few hitters who’ve had some success against the Braves southpaw. For his career, Fried has allowed a .319 AVG and a .912 OPS from Marlins hitters, giving him a 5.13 ERA through six starts (26.1 IP) thus far.
First pitch is slated for 7:20 PM (ET) tonight, and the game will broadcast live on Bally Sports South. Let’s even the series with a ‘W’