After a weird stretch where the Braves had three days off in a week, they get back to business in Pittsburgh to start a six-game road trip that ends Sunday in Miami. Atlanta’s five-series win-streak was snapped last week by the Washington Nationals, who swept the Braves in a two-game set. They followed that sweep with an ugly loss to the Tigers but were able to bounce back over the weekend with two wins thanks to an offensive onslaught. The Braves aim to continue that run production and start another streak of series Ws tonight against the Pirates.
Max Fried attempts to bounce back
It hasn’t been said often this season, but Max Fried’s last outing against the Nationals was one to forget. The southpaw was asked to go toe-to-toe with Stephen Strasburg and never looked like he had his best stuff. Even though Fried managed to hold the Nats scoreless for three innings, baserunners were aplenty. If it wasn’t for a stellar pickoff move, his line could have looked a lot worse. Control issues eventually got the best of him in the sixth inning, as he walked the bases loaded. Anthony Swarzark would relieve Fried but was unable to pick him up, walking in two runs before getting out of the jam. It was Fried’s third loss of the season.
Tonight, he faces a Pirates lineup that has not been explosive in scoring runs. They rank 12th in the NL (out of 15 teams) in runs scored and have been unable to produce the long ball. Pittsburgh has 57 home runs on the year, which is only two more than the Giants and twelve more than Miami.
Meet Steven Brault
Steven Brault is probably not a name many Braves fans are familiar with. He has spent pieces of the last four seasons in Pittsburgh – with last year being his first full one. He had 45 appearances in 2018, mostly coming out of the bullpen (five starts). Brault did go 6-3 but had a pedestrian 4.61 ERA. This year, he has appeared nine times (three starts) and is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA. The way the Braves bats have been going, and with Max Fried on the mound; it is a favorable recipe for a Braves win.
Battle of the First Baseman
Freddie Freeman might be the most underrated player in the National League. His exceptional consistency from year to year is second to none. There isn’t anything he can’t do. Freeman comes to work and puts up All-Star numbers like clockwork. That’s why he’s well on his way to another All-Star appearance this year. He leads the Braves with 14 home runs and boasts a slugging percentage of .562
On the opposite side – Josh Bell of the Pirates is another first baseman that is raking. Through 58 games, Bell has 18 homers and leads the league in both doubles (21) and RBIs (53). He’s also hitting .332 and slugging .681. Bell isn’t just putting up All-Star numbers; he’s putting up MVP numbers. It should be fun to watch these two go at it over the next three days.