Last week didn’t go as planned for the Braves. They lost four of their five games and watched their division lead trim to just two with four series remaining. As has been well-documented, the second place Phillies have one of the easiest schedules imaginable to end the season. The Braves’ schedule, on the other hand, is much more difficult, making their upcoming series with the Diamondbacks that much more critical.
On paper, this looks like a series the Braves should have no problem winning. The Diamondbacks are arguably the league’s worst team, already racking up 101 losses compared to just 48 wins. However, the Braves should know not to take them lightly based on how their series went with the Snakes earlier this season. Arizona took two of three from Atlanta, which included a seven-inning no-hitter in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
In fact, as miserable as the Diamondbacks have been this season, they’ve done some of their best work against the top two teams in the NL East. They also own a winning record over the Phillies, who lost four of their seven games against Arizona.
As expected, the pitching matchups will favor the Braves. Huascar Ynoa will get the ball in Game 1 against Humberto Mejia, who is sporting a 0-3 record with a 5.14 ERA and 1.71 WHIP on the season. It’s the perfect opportunity for the Braves to get their slumping lineup back on track. Atlanta has still yet to announce a starter for Game 2, but it wouldn’t shock me if they went with a bullpen game or gave someone like Kyle Muller another opportunity. It’s become rather apparent that neither Drew Smyly or Touki Toussaint is the best option. Whoever gets the rock will be up against Luke Weaver, who is 3-5 with a 4.42 ERA on the year. Game 3 will pin Ian Anderson against Merrill Kelly, and the series finale has the makings of a dandy as Charlie Morton will face Madison Bumgarner.
For the most part, the Braves have taken care of business against the bottom feeders in the National League. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are the only two NL teams with records below .500 that have gotten the better of Atlanta, and that could change over the next four days. It certainly needs to, or the Braves will be in trouble. They end their season with the Padres, Phillies, and Mets — three teams fighting for their playoff lives.