Looking ahead at the Braves vs. Rays series

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In the final series before the All-Star break, the two best teams in baseball will meet in Tampa Bay as the Rays host the red-hot Braves in a three-game set.

The class of the American League, the Rays, started the season 13-0, but the Braves have recently passed them for the best record in baseball. Normally heralded for their ability to develop pitching, Tampa has been getting it done offensively, thanks to Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz, and Luke Rayley.

Their pitching actually leaves a bit to be desired, which was the primary factor in their 17-12 record in May, but all facets of the club picked it up a bit in June, leading to a 17-10 record.

Atlanta, on the other hand, has been propelled by a historically great offense that jumps on opposing pitchers immediately. This will be an amazing series to end one of the most memorable first halves in franchise history. In the latest episode of SportsTalkATL, we break down the upcoming set:




Below are the pitching matchups:

Friday, July 7 

Charlie Morton (16 GS, 90.2 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.75 FIP)

Tyler Glasnow (7 GS, 36 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.68 FIP)

Charlie Morton’s season has been a bag of mixed results, struggling with his control at times, but his curveball remains one of the best pitches in baseball. Though he hasn’t completed six innings in any of his last five starts, he threw a gem against the Marlins, going 5.2 scoreless innings while only giving up four hits and one walk.

Glasnow hasn’t been able to escape the injury bug in recent years, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant pitchers in the sport. He’s got a high-powered fastball with two elite off-speed pitches, punching a lot of batters out but also giving up the long ball.

Saturday, June 8

Spencer Strider (17 GS, 98.1 IP, 3.66 ERA, 2.99 FIP)

Taj Bradley (12 GS, 56.1 IP, 5.27 ERA, 3.86 FIP)

Strider hit his first real speed bump in his career during June, but the hard-throwing righty has regained form over his last three starts, going at least six innings while allowing no more than two runs in each outing. His 14.19 K/9 is unprecedented for a starter, and he somehow only does it with two pitches, though his changeup is becoming more frequent and equally effective as his fastball/slider combination.

Don’t let Bradley’s ERA fool you; he’s still a very talented pitcher. Fortunately, he’s prone to give up the long ball, which isn’t great when you’re facing the Braves. He’s been hot and cold all season long, so there’s no telling which guy will show up Saturday.

Sunday, July 9

Bryce Elder (17 GS, 102.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 3.80 FIP)

Zach Eflin (16 GS, 97.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, 3.10 FIP)

Maybe the surprise of the Braves season, Bryce Elder gets it done in a much different way than the other guys. He doesn’t have flashy stuff like the rest but just knows how to throw, inducing soft contact, limiting his free passes, and making pitches when he has to. Though he might experience some regression, it shouldn’t be too severe.

Former Phillie, Zach Eflin, turned it around with the Rays, which isn’t all too surprising given their track record with pitching. He’s having a great year powered by his cutter and curveball. Eflin doesn’t give up a ton of walks, can punch guys out, and can generate ground balls — a recipe for success. The Braves lineup will have their hands filled on Sunday.

John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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