Last night was a…rough one.
The Braves were on pace to win the series well into last night’s game. Needless to say, things didn’t really go as planned.
A heartbreaking 9th inning ended with a walk-off RBI single by Joe Panik, splitting the series by the bay.
Luke Jackson, or The Sliderman, came in late to do what he’s been doing best this season, and instead saw his first loss of the season.
Aside from the late-inning heartbreak, everything was working for the Braves last night, like it has been as of late. The Braves are winners of seven out of their last ten and now only two and a half back behind Philadelphia. Balls are flying off the bat harder, strikes are soaring past batters at faster rates and defense is exactly what Anthopoulos wants it to be: elite.
Let’s take a step in a different direction before we get into the splits for tonight. Let’s see what’s been working and what we can fix.
Freddie Freeman continues to produce at an alarming rate, driving in 5 five runs in six days and posting an impressive four-game homer streak within that span. Acuna remains in the lead off spot where he belongs, slashing two more lead off home runs in the last three days. Austin Riley is giving the front office more than one reason to keep him in the lineup, hitting three home runs and slugging an impressive .385 average since getting called up. The young potential aces in Soroka and Fried have been nothing but dominant. We’re seeing the ball better, getting better barrel when making contact and posting an impressive .291 team average this season. The Braves seem to have finally hit their stride and are coming in hot to defend their 2018 title.
Where We Need Improvement
The old saying very well reigns true in today’s style of play: pitching wins pennants. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of areas where our pitching is solid. A lot of those reasons are named Mike, Max and Luke. But, there are still a few gaps that definitely need to be filled. Most recently, the Braves have been linked to former reliever of the month Shane Green. David O’Brien got into more detail about it earlier this afternoon.
Rumor of #Braves pursuing DET closer Shane Greene makes sense, given state of ATL bullpen. He's converted 15 of 15 saves, 1.35 ERA/0.750 WHIP, under control through '20. But I'm told by someone I trust that ATL hasn't pursued. Btw, has career 4.70 ERA/1.374 WHIP, 5.12 ERA in '18.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) May 22, 2019
We’re still about two weeks away from the 2019 MLB Draft. Many believe that once that has come and gone that Anthopoulos’s next target is a familiar name in the Braves organization. What was his name again? Craig something? I don’t know.
Signing Kimbrel will bring much needed help to a fleeting bullpen and bring some excitement and morale to an organization already full with excitement. For now, the fact remains that the ‘pen needs help now. Extending a well-rounded offer to the rebuilding Tigers could help us patch up a bullpen full of holes.
All these potential signings and trades are exciting, yes. But we’ve got a series to win tonight. Here’s how we’re matched up on the bump tonight.
Max Fried: 6-2, 2.86 ERA
Man, I like this kid. Max Fried has been tearing it up this season, fighting to cement his already-pretty-much-guaranteed spot in the rotation. The 25 year old southpaw posted only two starts with more than four earned runs all season and hasn’t seen his WHIP go higher than 1.20 all season long. The command of his pitches to the corners and ability to pitch to contact is making him look like a young embodiment of an old Braves legend, Greg Maddux. Fried looks to stay absolutely red-hot on the mound tonight against a lineup he hasn’t seen before. Continued command in the corners and limiting the balls past the infield are keys to getting that 7th win of the season tonight.
Jeff Samardzija: 2-2, 3.69 ERA
Samardzija is an interesting case. The righty out of Indiana signed a five year, $90M deal with the Giants back in 2015, following his lone all-star season of 2014. Sadly for San Fran, the Shark turned into more of a guppy. Samardzija’s only sub-10 loss season came last year during his injury plagued season. The Shark seemingly hasn’t found his bite with the Giants yet and looks to at least leave a mark against the Braves tonight. Samardzija hasn’t had great luck against the starting 9 for the Braves. He’s holding them to a .333 team average with two homers and six RBIs. Finding life in his once-feared slider and limiting the Braves to balls on the ground will be the key to success for Samardzija tonight. However, given the success of our starting 9 against him, a big third win doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
All the action starts tonight, once again at 9:45 PM. You can catch it all on Fox Sports South or with an active MLB.Tv subscription.