Even before the result became final, the second game of Saturday night’s doubleheader against the Indians had the feel of a watershed moment for the Braves. As the down-in-the-dumps squad trudged their way back from a 7-3 deficit with two outs in the 9th inning on their way to a stunning victory, the team looked rejuvenated and flashed some of that same never-say-die energy that they exhibited so often in 2018. After completing their improbable comeback, the offense rode that wave en route to an 11-5 victory on Sunday night.
It appears the 2019 Braves, much like their 2018 brethren, are often the beneficiaries of - or victims of - their own momentum, depending on which direction things are trending. So, as things appear to be trending up, what better way to keep an offense rolling than a three-day visit to Great American Ballpark? GABP, well publicized for its ability to facilitate offensive firepower, will host a three-game series between the Braves and the heretofore pitiful Cincinnati Reds.
Despite a flurry of activity during the off-season, the Reds find themselves in last place in the NL Central, and at 8-13, with the second-worst record in the National League. Like the Braves, their season has been one of multiple streaks. After an Opening Day win, the Redlegs dropped eight consecutive games, then won four in a row, lost four in a row, then won three straight against the Padres before losing on Sunday. If the trend sticks, they are due for a few more losses, which could be just what the Braves need.
As a unit, Cincinnati’s offense has posted a -1.1 fWAR, tied for worst in all of baseball (with Rockies, whom the Braves face after this series). Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, obtained from the Dodgers in the winter, have been worth -1.2 fWAR just by themselves. Three of their other regular starters - Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, and Jose Peraza - have also posted negative fWAR due to some bad luck on balls in play (each of the five Reds listed has a BABIP of .200 or less). Simply put, it’s been a miserable start for the Reds. Things won’t get any easier for them as they face Kevin Gausman, who is right in the middle of his most dominant stretch as a Brave.
While Gausman’s numbers aren’t gaudy, he has arguably been exactly what the Braves hoped he would be upon his acquisition at last year’s trade deadline. Aside from Max Fried, Gausman has been the most valuable member of the pitching staff, sporting a 1-1 record with a 2.75 ERA / 3.10 FIP (both the best of his career), accumulating 0.5 fWAR through his first three starts. His 10.07 K/9 rate is also the highest of his career.
The Reds will send another of their off-season acquisitions, Sonny Gray, to the mound to cool the resurgent Braves offense. Like Gausman, Gray has looked like a different pitcher since leaving the AL East. After a year and a half of maligned performances as a member of the New York Yankees, Gray has looked right at home in a Reds uniform. As you might expect from him pitching in front of such a slumping offense, his record is 0-3, but he brings a 2.79 ERA / 2.58 FIP, along with a 22:6 strikeout to walk ratio. Of course, he hasn’t faced a lineup like this one in the minuscule confines of GABP, so we’ll see how his peripherals are holding up tomorrow.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, April 23, 6:40 p.m. ET
Location: Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network