It’s probably a fair statement to say that the Braves are where they are this season in part due to the Miami Marlins. In other words, racking up 13 wins against any team certainly helps when you’re chasing the postseason. This afternoon, after blowing their last two chances to accumulate even more wins against Miami, the Braves will have a chance to right their ship and finally grab win number 14. If they do, it’ll be the first time they’ve won 14 games against a single team since the 2012 season, when they went 14-4 against the Marlins. If they don’t, that’s it: the Braves won’t face the Marlins any more this season after today. (They will, however, have a chance to grab 14 or even 15 games against the Mets, as they have 12 wins against them so far and play them three more times this season.)
But, in order to grab that additional win, they’ll need to score some runs. After a sweep at the hands of the Rockies that was assisted in large part due to bullpen meltdowns, and a sweep of the Pirates, the magnifying glass had been removed from the offense a bit. But, make no mistake: the offense hasn’t been awesome. After finishing seventh in MLB in wRC+ before the All-Star Break, the Braves have fallen to 10th in MLB since, including 13th in August and 20th in the last week. In particular, the combined struggles of Ozzie Albies, Tyler Flowers, and Nick Markakis, who have combined for just nine hits, one extra-base hit, and six walks since last weekend, have made it difficult to score runs. That difficulty has definitely reared its head, as the Braves scored one run in two games for the third time this season in dropping two consecutive games to Miami, and has actually somehow won two games this past week while scoring one run (1-0) and two runs (2-1) against the Pirates.
Kevin Gausman was the Atlanta starter in one of the two games this past week where his team didn’t struggle offensively, throwing eight scoreless frames in a 6-1 victory. It wasn’t his best start of the year (he threw a nine-inning shutout against the Athletics in May), but it was arguably his best start in an Atlanta uniform so far, tied in Game Score with an eight-inning, one-run effort against the Brewers.
Gausman last pitched against the Marlins a couple of weeks ago, and allowed two runs in six innings, including a home run to Starlin Castro. (If Jarlin Garcia’s Players’ Weekend jersey reads “Jarlin the Marlin,” why didn’t Starlin Castro go with “Starlin the Marlin?” Questions, questions...) That outing was actually the trough in a weird pattern that Gausman has had since being acquired from Baltimore: a mediocre start with a poor K/BB ratio followed up by a great one. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue today, and he’s able to dominate the Marlins. On the season, Gausman has a 93 ERA-, 100 FIP-, and 97 xFIP-. However, as a Brave, these numbers have bounced around a bit: 50, 78, and 100, respectively.
The Marlins will throw Pablo Lopez at the Braves to try and keep their bats silent once again. Lopez started the season in Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A, where he struggled, but was eventually called up to Miami anyway. In nine starts, Lopez has pitched to a 113 ERA- and FIP-, which is pretty bad. But, his xFIP- of 96 suggests that he’s actually been pretty decent and perhaps very unlucky on the rate at which fly balls he’s allowed have left the yard. If the Braves help his ERA and FIP regress by once again letting HR/FB variation suppress their run production, it could be another frustrating game at Marlins Park. On the plus side for Atlanta, the Braves did hand Lopez his worst start of the year a couple of weeks ago, where they tagged him for six runs (five earned) in five-and-a-third. That was the game where Touki Toussaint made his major league debut, and where Ronald Acuña Jr. was in the midst of hitting leadoff homers left and right. The Braves will again hope for a similar result, even though in Lopez’ last outing, he held the New York Yankees offense to just one run in six frames and did not allow a home run.
A brief history of the Braves and their results on my birthday
The Braves don’t play well on my birthday, historically. That means it’ll be my fault for being born today when they inevitably lose this game.
- 2017: They lost when Arodys Vizcaino allowed two homers in a tie game in the ninth, and despite a Matt Adams homer that got two of the three needed runs back in the bottom of the inning, Brandon Phillips hit into a game-ending double play.
- 2016: They lost 7-0 to the Giants in San Francisco. Yuck.
- 2015: They lost 6-3 to the Rockies because Shelby Miller was left in the game too long and allowed a go-ahead two-run triple to Jose Reyes, of all people. Also Edwin Jackson pitched in this game and allowed a two-run homer. Does anyone seriously remember that Edwin Jackson pitched for the Braves?
- 2014: Lost 3-2 to the Mets after Juan Lagares hit a two-run homer off Alex Wood. Emilio Bonifacio appeared in this game.
- 2013: Mercifully-ish, didn’t play.
- 2012: Yes, this is how far back you have to go to find a Braves win on August 26. The Braves won a game in San Francisco (as rare as that is), thanks to Tim Hudson’s seven innings of one-run ball, and the Braves knocking Tim Lincecum after five. It was a weird but awesome game, with Juan Francisco (yes, remember him?) homering off Lincecum, and Paul Janish hitting a two-run triple.
- Others: 6-0 loss to the Mets in 2011; no game in 2010; 12-5 loss to the Padres in 2009; walkoff 10-9 win against the Marlins in 2008; etc.
The point is, since I’ve started watching the Braves, they’ve gone 5-9 on my birthday. They won’t be able to make all of that up to me today, but a win would be a good start.
Atlanta Braves @ Miami Marlins
Sunday, August 26, 2018
1:10 pm EDT
Marlins Park, Miami, Florida
TV: Fox Sports South, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM.
XM Radio: XM Streaming 841