The last time the Braves faced the Yankees, in a two-game series in New York — I almost wrote a post leading up to the first game explaining how I believed the upcoming set against the Bombers could be the Braves’ first real test of the 2020 season. You know, a way to gauge just how good this Braves team really is. However, due to injuries to key players and impactful roster moves leading up to the series, it didn’t seem like the Braves were 100%. Also… I knew the two teams would meet again.
Entering that August 11-12 series (just a few days after Mike Soroka’s successful surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon), the Braves were 11-7 and tied for first place in the NL East. Just as it is now, the team’s starting rotation wasn’t performing very well then, and the last couple of weeks leading up to those two games at Yankee Stadium were filled with one disaster after another:
- First, Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment in late July after a horrid start against the Rays.
- Then it was Soroka’s freak injury, knocking him out for the season (and possibly some of 2021).
- And literally, the day before Touki faced the Yankees for Game 1 on Aug. 11, Sean Newcomb was also DFA’d, after allowing eight runs (two homers) against the Phillies, in which he never made it out of the 2nd inning.
Talk about a catastrophe…
It wasn’t an ideal time to be going up against one of the top teams in baseball, but nevertheless, the Braves patched together a pair of starts, first giving the nod to Touki to open the series and then Kyle Wright in Game 2.
We know how those two games went. Touki got roughed up a bit and allowed five runs over four innings. And even though Marcell Ozuna broke out with three RBI from a homer and a double, the Braves dropped the first game 9-6.
Later that night, Huascar Ynoa was announced as the starter for Game 2, which admittedly was a bit exciting considering he pitched well in his 2020 debut a few days prior against the Phillies. Well, that smidgen of excitement quickly dissipated when he surrendered two homers in the opening frame, needing 44 pitches to get three outs. The Braves scored in the 9th, and Dansby Swanson finished with three hits, but the Yankees won that one too, 6-3.
So here we are 13 days later, featuring even more struggles from the Braves’ starting staff. Somehow they’re still holding on to a two-game lead in the division, and even with a rotation that, outside of Fried, has been collectively ineffective, the Braves have managed to go 5-5 in their last ten games since the two teams met. However, you could say the Yankees are a little vulnerable at the moment.
After beating the Braves (to give them six-straight victories at the time), New York allowed a combined 20 runs in a three-game sweep by the Rays, which was only the second series the Yankees had lost all season (the other came against Tampa Bay as well). If you didn’t know just how bad the Braves’ situation was regarding their rotation, you might even say Tuesday and Wednesday’s matchup with the Yankees is a chance to turn things around.
Except… we do know how bad the Braves’ starters have been, and that collective 5.37 ERA (5.34 FIP) is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to illustrating just how horrible things have been.
To pour salt on the wound, Gerrit Cole and the Yankees are catching the Braves at the very back-end of their rotation. Monday’s off-day was nice, but even rest can’t help a shorthanded staff like this one.
The Braves stole a win from the Phillies this past Saturday by starting Robbie Erlin, and then came a-play-at-the-plate away from winning another Sunday night, thanks to three innings from the always-cool Josh Tomlin. Now the Braves must once again play the right card in a series opener against the almighty Cole. Fortunately, the rotation resets on Wednesday as Fried is expected to face off against the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka.
But it’s still disappointing. Without the Dodgers on the schedule this year, the Yankees are the only powerhouse club outside the division that make for must-see TV. Sure, the Rays should probably be included in there as well, but even with all of Tampa Bay’s recent success, it’s still hard to look at them the same way as the Dodgers, Yankees, or even Astros.
These two series between the Braves and Yankees were supposed to be significant, or at least feature both at their best. However, the Braves have never at full strength long enough to really give New York all they got. For now, that may not be too concerning, but soon these holes in the rotation will need to be filled (the Aug. 31 trade deadline is next Monday).
Unfortunately, the Braves never had the opportunity to face the Yankees as a fully functional club during the regular season. However, if GM Alex Anthopoulos plays his cards right, the Braves should have another chance come playoff time. Maybe then we’ll get the marquee matchup I’ve been itching to write about.