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Braves hope to salvage finale, stop skid behind Gausman

If there was ever a pitcher to hammer, Colorado starter Tyler Anderson may be it

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Well, gang, I have some bad news. The Braves are not doing too hot at this exact moment: they’re 3-8 in their last 11 games, they’re two games under .500 for the first time since the season-opening series, and they just can’t seem to get out of their own way with terrible tactical pitching personnel decisions. After last night’s disastrous late loss, which starts to kind of blend in with all the other same-y bullpen-oriented defeats, the Braves’ playoff odds are lower than they’ve been at any point since the season’s fifth game. The pitching staff has fared the fourth-worst in baseball, thanks to a next-to-last bullpen performance.

But, I also have some good news. It’s still only April. There are a ton of games left for the Braves to pull themselves out of the muck and actually get on with the whole winning thing. If they win their next three contests, they’ll be right on pace with where they were expected to be. Even a game or so off that pace is hardly a big deal. The key is that they need to start, and avoid mistakes.

One way to avoid mistakes is to put the game so far out of reach that tactical blunders can’t screw it up too badly. The Braves will have a prime shot to do that in this afternoon’s series finale, as they go up against the struggling Tyler Anderson. Anderson has made three starts so far in 2019, and they’ve been awful. He’s been awful. He’s allowed 16 runs in 12 innings, and remember, it took him three outings to last 12 total innings. In his first start, he allowed five runs in five innings, with a 3/0 K/BB ratio, and that was his best start of the year. He then yielded six runs in four innings, including two homers, while walking more (three) than he struck out (two). Anderson then got shelved with a knee problem, but came back and was still ineffective — he five runs in three innings to the Nationals last Monday, but at least got his K/BB ratio back over 1.00 again (4/3).

Anderson has a four-pitch mix, but none of them are particularly good over the long haul — he sometimes shows really strong stretches, but cancels them out with protracted struggles. He’s clearly struggling now, and the Braves hope that continues. They’d much rather contend with current 2019 241 ERA- / 139 FIP- / 121 xFIP- Tyler Anderson than career 95 ERA- / 99 FIP- / 97 xFIP- Tyler Anderson, but who knows which one they’ll get. While Anderson is a southpaw, he doesn’t have much of a career platoon split (see four-pitch mix), and this season, it’s been the same-handed hitters that have killed him (15.99 FIP / 8.93 xFIP) rather than guys with the platoon advantage (vanilla 4.06 FIP / 4.30 xFIP).

The Braves will counter with Kevin Gausman, who’s been quite good in his four starts so far. Gausman holds a 91 / 92 / 85 pitching triple-slash (ERA-/FIP-/xFIP-) and has alternated strong and poor starts so far. His worst start of the year came in his last outing, as he allowed six runs, including two homers, to the Reds — and was, surprise surprise, not pulled until it was too late despite facing Cincinnati’s order a third time. Gausman is still running the highest strikeout rate of his career by far, so against a pretty strikeout-prone Colorado offense, he may be fun to watch. Then again, that was also the hope against the Reds, and that didn’t quite go as planned.

The Braves haven’t faced Anderson since July 2016, in what was his eighth career start. He fared okay (three runs in six innings, 6/1 K/BB ratio) — not that that has any relevance now. This will be Gausman’s first time facing the Rockies, ever; the righty grew up in Centennial, Colorado, a Denver exurb. Let’s hope it’s a good one, because every loss now just makes the playoff offs dwindle further.

Game Info

Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves

Sunday, April 29, 2019

1:20 p.m. EDT

SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA

TV: Fox Sports South, MLB.tv

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM

XM Radio: SXM 186 (Streaming 841).

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