The Braves got absolutely clobbered / jobbed / destroyed / mauled in San Diego in the series opener. The fact that it was a brutal start to what’s been a brutal part of any seasonal schedule (the West Coast road trip) and therefore more or less expected didn’t make it sting any less, nor did the fact that it was only the Braves’ second-worst loss of the season (they lost 11-2 to the Giants earlier in the year). Still, baseball allows for hope to spring eternal, and the hope for Tuesday night is that the Braves will be able to exorcise their San Diego demons and actually win a game (and maybe even a series, eventually?) at Petco Park.
On the plus side of the ledger for Atlanta’s hopes is that Sean Newcomb will be taking the hill for the Braves. Newcomb was nearly consistently good in May, aside from a blow-up at Fenway Park. He beat the Nationals in his most recent start with seven innings of two-run ball, and was a top 20 pitcher in May with a 1.54 / 2.77 / 4.26 pitching triple-slash. On the season, Newcomb has 70 ERA-, a 79 FIP-, and a 99 xFIP- which may not matter so much given how well he’s suppressed homers to date (though time will tell).
Newcomb actually got his first career win against the Padres, back in his fourth career start. That start, also coming at Petco Park, saw him hurl six scoreless with eight strikeouts and just one walk. That’s a K/BB ratio he’s only bested once in his career to date.
The Padres will send Jordan Lyles to the hill. Lyles has been in the majors for parts of eight seasons at this point, spanning the Houston, Colorado, and San Diego franchises. Originally a starter for the Astros, he was unremarkable and ended up being traded to the Rockies as part of a deal for Dexter Fowler. He fared better with his grounder-heavy approach in Denver and managed average-y run prevention in 2014, but a toe injury in 2015 limited him to only 10 starts. In 2016, he struggled in the rotation to begin the year and was demoted to the bullpen, where he served a long relief/swingman role. He was released by Colorado partway through 2017 and snapped up by the Padres, who have used him in a similar capacity.
Lyles was dreadful in 2017 (7.75 ERA, 5.68 FIP, 4.64 xFIP) across five starts and 33 relief appearances, but has regained some of his mojo in 2018, thanks to a greater emphasis on his four-seamer, changeup, and curveball while moving away from his sinker and slider. This alteration in approach has led to a career-high strikeout rate along with a reduction in his groundball tendencies. After starting the season in a long relief role for Andy Green’s club, Lyles was thrust into the rotation in mid-May. He made waves in his second start when he threw seven and a third perfect innings against the Rockies, his former team. Overall, though, his results as a starter have been mixed — he allowed only one earned run in his first 12 and a third innings as a starter this year, but then allowed nine runs in ten and a third. He bounced back his last time out against the Marlins with seven innings of two-run ball with a nice 7/1 K/BB ratio, but hopefully the Braves can push him back off the right track tonight.
Lyles hasn’t faced the Braves as a Padre, but he made two starts against them, back in 2011 and 2014 (as well as a one-out relief appearance in 2016). He allowed two runs in around six innings in both, but those were very different teams and Lyles was a very different pitcher.
Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres
June 5, 2018
10:10 pm EDT
Petco Park, San Diego, CA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network