Braves

One step forward, two steps back for the Braves rotation

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Right after I give the Braves rotation loads of praise for turning things around and possibly patching up all their holes – another question emerges. Is Dallas Keuchel trustworthy?

Based on his superior track record, and what we’ve seen to this point, I prematurely assumed that Keuchel would be the number two in a potential playoff rotation. He still has the chance to be that guy, but yesterday showed us, Keuchel – like the rest of the rotation outside of Mike Soroka – has a lot to prove over these final two months.

After six straight losses in which they scored more than two runs twice and more than four runs once, the Marlins unloaded on the former Cy Young Award winner early and often. They smacked two home runs in the first, establishing a three-run lead, but most of the damage occurred a few innings later. The fish strung together five hits, capped off by a towering blast over the left-field fence by Brian Anderson – his second homer of the night.

That was the end of the line for Keuchel, who could not make it out of the fourth, allowing ten hits and eight earned runs. It raised his ERA to 4.83 on the season, which is actually lower than his FIP of 5.23. Like most pitchers this year, he’s seen a spike in the number of home runs against him, surrendering eleven of them in only ten starts. His previous career-high of home runs allowed was twenty, which occurred over 26 starts back in 2016.

From watching Keuchel in his first ten appearances as a Brave; it’s apparent what his game is. He isn’t afraid of contact, doesn’t walk batters, but above all; he is a perfectionist. Keuchel won a Cy Young off painting corners. He doesn’t have the type of stuff that fools hitters. His goal is to force opponents to put the ball in play where he wants it to go. If Keuchel isn’t hitting his spots, major league hitters, even the Marlins, are going to tee off on 89 MPH fastballs.

I would like to think, given how precise Keuchel has to be when he pitches, the lengthy-time off might have effected his command just a tad. Perhaps its something that will get better as he continues on this season. The simple eye test says it will, but until that happens, he has just as much, if not more, to prove than the likes of Julio Teheran, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz.

The one positive thing that came out of last night’s 9-2 shellacking: Ronald Acuña smacked his team-leading 30th home run and is now four steals away from joining the 30/30 club. The only Braves that have done that in team history are Dale Murphy, Ron Gant, and the great Hank Aaron. That is some elite company, and Acuña might not stop there. At his current pace, he has a legit shot at the 40/40 club.

Not only is that unprecedented for a 21-year-old; it’s one of the rarest feats in the history of baseball. Only four players have done it – Barry Bonds, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Canseco, and Alex Rodriguez – and three of those guys were on the juice. Special doesn’t do Ronald Acuña justice. He has the potential to be the best to ever lace them up.

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