During their rebuild, the Braves pillaged the Diamondbacks with the help of former Arizona General Manager Dave Stewart. Those moves have already come to roost in this series: Dansby Swanson scored the winning run on Thursday night, Ender Inciarte made a game-saving catch last night and ended up driving in the winning run, and Swanson made the game-winning play by cutting down the tying run at home plate in the tenth. This afternoon, the Braves will turn another Diamondbacks product around to face his former team, as Touki Toussaint gets a chance to make his third MLB start against the franchise that drafted him in the first round in 2014.
What Toussaint will be entering is, frankly, somewhat of a madhouse. The Braves and Diamondbacks have tangled for three wild, outlandish games in the desert so far, with the Braves winning two of them. The first and third games of the series (both Braves wins) have been tragicomedies of errors, full of bullpen meltdowns, key hits, and frustrating sequences on both sides. The Braves dropped Friday night’s game, but had ample opportunities not to do so. It might be nice to imagine that today’s game will be drama-free, but who are we kidding? Hold on to your butts... again (and again and again).
If the Braves do win this game, though, it will be their first series win at Chase Field since 2012, where they also won a four-game series. It’ll also give them the season series victory over the Diamondbacks, which is something that they’ve accumulated fairly consistently: the Diamondbacks have won the season series against the Braves just once since the conclusion of the 2007 season.
Anyway, back to Toussaint. After a six-inning, one-run showing against the Marlins in his debut, Toussaint last started on Labor Day, where he allowed three runs in four-and-two-thirds to the Red Sox. He has a 10/4 K/BB ratio so far, and his 83 ERA-, 67 FIP-, and 81 xFIP- are all encouraging.
The Diamondbacks will send Robbie Ray to the mound in an attempt to split the series. After two and a half seasons of very solid pitching (FIP-s of 90, 90, and 85), Ray has not fared quite as well this year. He went down with an oblique injury that sidelined him for two months, and didn’t look quite right as he returned, suffering through a July in which he allowed oodles of runs (6.12 ERA, 5.63 FIP). Since then, though, he’s been much better: 2.59 ERA and 3.57 FIP (86 FIP-) that’s much more in line with how he’s pitched previously, and a string of six starts where he hasn’t given up more than three runs. In particular, Ray has picked it up in his last three outings, as he’s allowed just two runs (both on solo homers) in that span, with a crazy 26/8 K/BB ratio. However, efficiency continues to be somewhat of an issue for him, as he’s gotten an out in the seventh inning just twice this year, and generally only sticks around long enough to get an out or two in the sixth. That could be a boon for Atlanta given that the Diamondbacks have seemingly used all of their relievers in every game this series, but they’ll need to be patient enough to draw some walks and wait out the southpaw.
Ray is coming off his best start of the year, where he struck out 10 in six and a third scoreless frames against the Padres. He’s only faced the Braves twice in his career (and lost both), and none more recently than August 2016. On the season, he holds a 99 ERA-, 105 FIP-, and 92 xFIP-.
Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks
4:10 pm EDT
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
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