This baseball season has already featured a lot of repeated pitching matchups, many of them between the Braves and the Phillies, whom they trail by 2.5 games in the NL East standings. But, this afternoon, with the Braves in the midst of a gnarly four-game losing streak and a terrible month of July, another matchup will be reprised: Sean Newcomb vs. Ross Stripling.
The first time this matchup happened didn’t go so well for the Braves, and it was pretty much par for the course for a contest between these two teams. Sean Newcomb allowed five runs (including two homers, one each to Logan Forsythe and Max Muncy) in five-and-a-third innings, while the Braves managed just two runs on solo shots by Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman off Stripling. The Dodgers cruised to an easy 7-2 victory, and come into this game having handily won the season series against Atlanta, going 5-1 while outscoring the Braves 34-14 in the process.
Of course, the Braves have bigger problems than just not being able to beat the Dodgers. The team is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, only their second such skid of the year. (Both have come in July.) Lose today, and they’ll endure their first five-game losing streak of the year. On top of that, the Braves are just 7-13 during the month — if it ended right now, it would be the worst month for the franchise since April 2016. Suffice to say, most of the goodwill generated by the Braves earlier in the year has now been erased: the Braves’ playoff odds are now at just 22 percent after cresting at around 56 percent at the beginning of the month, and the Braves are no longer just out of playoff position, they’re even behind the Colorado Rockies in trailing the second Wild Card spot. Gross.
Back to Newcomb: he’ll probably have to be better to give his team a chance of winning this game. After a stellar 11-start stretch from April-June where he only allowed more than three runs once and had five scoreless outings, he’s mostly been hammered since. In eight starts since June 10, Newcomb has allowed five runs three times, and three runs twice. His walk rate has increased, his strikeout rate has collapsed, and weirdly enough, he’s given up a ton of homers: nine in eight starts, with only one homerless outing. This is especially troubling, as prior to June 10, he had only given up three homers in 12 starts, and none in the month of May. In aggregate, Newcomb enters this game with an 84 ERA-, a 104 FIP-, and a 107 xFIP-, a far cry from 78 FIP- (and even 99 xFIP-) he was putting up earlier in the year.
Stripling, meanwhile, has also declined a bit since June, but not quite so handily. Prior to facing the Braves, Stripling had been in the rotation for about a month, and had allowed just five runs in six starts. Since then, he’s only had one scoreless outing in six tries, and has also allowed 10 homers in eight starts after allowing just one in May. While his strikeout rate has regressed from its gaudy mid-30%ish figure, he’s actually trimmed his walk rate even further over the last six weeks, and has issued just three walks in his last eight starts.
One bit of hope for the Braves is that Stripling suffered his worst outing of the year in his most recent start, where the Phillies tagged him for three homers and five runs in four and two-thirds innings of work. Still, Stripling had a sparkling 6/0 K/BB ratio, so it was probably more something bound to happen eventually than bad process — the Braves still have their work cut out for them coming into this one.
Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
Sunday, July 29, 2018
1:35 pm EDT
TV: Fox Sports South, TBS, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM