Many may feel as if the other shoe will soon drop, as the Braves have now successfully completed back-to-back games without a complete meltdown from its starting rotation. In Game 1 of the Wild Card Series round versus the Reds, Max Fried pitched seven efficient innings and allowed six hits with five strikeouts and no walks followed by a six-inning outing by Ian Anderson on Thursday that featured just two hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. Here are Fried and Anderson’s last two starts combined: 13 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K
After two months of inconsistency from the starting rotation, the Braves certainly look more formidable in that particular area. Plus, as the team heads to Houston to play the Marlins in the upcoming NLDS, the duo of Fried and Anderson will have had six and five days of rest respectively. That means the Braves will easily reset their playoff rotation with Mad Max ready for Game 1.
For all of us so concerned about who would be the team’s no. 3 or 4 starter in the postseason, it appears that neither Kyle Wright or any type of bullpen shenanigans will even be needed until at least Thursday of next week. The Braves will hopefully be up 2-0 in the series by then and just one win away from moving on to the NLCS.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, the Braves starters have turned around their performance in the last 2-3 weeks, and it all seemed to begin with Wright’s outing in D.C. against the Nationals back on Sept. 13 — the first time in 2020 that he lasted six innings in an outing. Nine days later, Bryse Wilson surprised us all with a near-quality start of his own when he struck out seven against Miami on Sept. 22.
In between Wright and Wilson’s bounce-back performances, even 22-year-old Huascar Ynoa reached back and put together one of his better big league starts, tossing a two-hitter in Baltimore on Sept. 15 that consisted of five strikeouts over four innings (zero walks).
All-in-all, the Braves’ starting rotation has been trending in the right direction lately. In fact, it has been a totally different staff since that Wright effort versus Washington several weeks ago. Check out the rotation’s numbers from Sept. 13 through the end of the 2020 regular season, compared to before:
Sept. 13 to end of season
58 IP, 4-5, 8.07 K/9, 3.72 BB/9, 1.09 HR/9, 3.88 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.0 WAR
Opening day to Sept. 12
193.2 IP, 10-11, 7.99 K/9, 4.14 BB/9, 1.49 HR/9, 5.99 ERA, 5.19 FIP, 1.2 WAR
The improvements have been evident. In fact, the two-run improvement in ERA during those last few weeks of the regular season allowed the Braves’ rotation to ascend from one of the three-worst in the majors for much of the season to an average one during the final couple of weeks (it ranked 12th in ERA from Sept. 13 to the end of the season). Once you add the aforementioned outings by Fried and Anderson during the playoffs so far, the direction of this starting staff is even more encouraging.
With a two-game sweep and shutout of the Reds in this week’s wild card series and several strong outings to end the year from a few pitchers that looked lost for much of the regular season, who knows… the Braves rotation may have turned things around at just the right time in 2020.