The Atlanta Braves come back to Turner Field this weekend for a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks before heading out to San Diego for the start of a seven-game road trip. Atlanta is coming off of a two-game sweep by the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, which showcased how vulnerable this young Braves bullpen can be at times.
At 56-57, the Diamondbacks are essentially out of the playoff hunt. They are 8.5 games out of the NL wild card and according to Fangraphs, have less than a 1 percent chance of making it passed the regular season. I'm no statistics guru, but those odds aren't great.
Similarly, the Braves are also out of the playoff hunt -- and have been since, essentially, their four-game sweep in Colorado before the All-Star break. The NL East will surely go to either the Mets or the Nationals, and being 11 games back in the division, Atlanta is looking to the future.
That's certainly not to say that there aren't things to watch for in this series, even with Freddie Freeman and Hector Olivera still rehabbing. Each of the starting pitchers that Atlanta has set to go in this are intriguing, in one way or another.
Julio Teheran is slated to go on Friday, and he's looked much more like the Teheran of old than the roller coaster that has been 2015 over his past two starts. A move back to the first base side of the rubber seems to have helped his fastball command, and his struggles against lefties could be nearing an end as well, as he retired 12-of-15 left-handers in his last start against the Marlins, thanks to renewed confidence in his changeup.
Mike Foltynewicz got a win in his last start, but didn't look especially good throughout the outing, despite allowing just two runs over 5.2 innings. He threw just 56 of his 104 pitches for strikes (54 percent) last Saturday, while walking four batters and striking out three. One encouraging sign during that start though was a harder slider that Foltynewicz threw 21 times (he averaged 85-mph on the pitch). It didn't look like a plus pitch by any means, but Folty hasn't shown the ability to command his curve at all, and he needs something to keep hitters off of his fastball. Maybe this is that pitch. He's also been working on a split-finger fastball in his bullpen sessions, so if he's made some progress with that offering, we might get a glimpse of that as well.
Finally we get to Shelby Miller. Poor Shelby. The guy hasn't won a game since May 17 despite pitching exceptionally well throughout this stretch of 15 consecutive winless starts. Miller has posted a 3.16 ERA, while allowing two earned runs or less 10 times during that period. However the Atlanta offense has been essentially useless when Miller's on the mound, averaging just 2 runs per game for him during this period. The bad luck has to end for him at some point, but if it didn't Sunday, would you really be that surprised?