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Braves vs. Rockies Game Preview: Young Arms Duel Out West

Following last night’s bullpen masterpiece, the Braves hope Max Fried can produce another one of his own.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s date is a pretty historic day in Atlanta Braves franchise history. Forty-five years ago yesterday, Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run. Twenty-five years ago yesterday, Kent Mercker threw the last no-hitter in franchise history. And a year ago yesterday, Sean Newcomb arguably pitched the best game of his career in the exact same park the Braves and Rockies are playing tonight.

Newcomb would go six innings in a 4-0 Braves win against the Rockies. The relevance of that night is that it likely was the last time Newcomb looked as dominant as he did in the last five innings of Sunday’s start against the Marlins. His stat line from that night also was quite similar to the stat line tonight’s starter, Max Fried, produced against the Cubs in his first start of 2019

Both Fried and Newcomb went 6 or more innings, and allowed 0 walks, 0 runs, and struck out 5 or more hitters. Since 2017, Newcomb and Fried have produced two of the five times a Braves starter has achieved this statistical threshold. Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Anibal Sanchez are the other three starters, with each of the these five doing it one time.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

However, what sets Fried’s performance apart is that he only gave up one hit. As mentioned above, it has been over 25 years since the Braves last no-hitter. Over the past few years, Newcomb and Shelby Miller have lost their no-hit bids trying to get the 27th out. However, in their starts, they each walked one or more batters. Over the past 25 years, only five other Braves starters have achieved Fried’s dominance of throwing six or more innings and allowing 1 hit or less, 0 walks, and 0 runs. Julio Teheran was the last one to do it. Before him, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, John Thomson and Bruce Chen also accomplished the feat.

As can be seen, Fried’s level of dominance against the Cubs was quite rare in the recent history of the franchise. Furthermore, it may have been needed now more than ever. Fried was the first Braves starter to reach six complete innings on the season. While Atlanta starters completed six or more innings in each game against Miami, Julio Teheran only completed five innings last night, while giving up six runs. After the bullpen’s extensive use last night, the Braves could use another six to seven inning performance from Fried tonight.

The Rockies also present a few reasons why Fried may need to be as dominant as he was against Chicago. For one, the Rockies are one of the most productive teams against left handed pitchers in the majors. In fact, since 2016, the Rockies rank first in the majors in OPS, first in Batting Average, second in homers, first in runs scored, and third in hits against LHP. While they may get a boost from their home ballpark, the Rockies are one of the few teams that can rival the Braves offense when facing southpaws.

Another reason is because Atlanta will be facing German Marquez. Marquez recently agreed to a 5 year, $43,000,000 extension with the Rockies. That contract could prove to be one of the most valuable contracts for a pitcher in the majors before too long if Marquez builds on his 2018 second half. After the 2018 All-Star Break, for pitchers who threw 75 or more innings, Marquez was tied for 3rd in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings, 7th in strikeouts to walks ratio, and 3rd in FIP.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While Marquez certainly pitched the best of his young career at the end of last year, his control has been very good since he arrived. Between 2017 and 2018, Marquez is one of only 11 pitchers to have a K% above 24% and a BB% at 7% percent or lower in at least 350IP. Once Marquez was able to locate his breaking pitches, he took his overall production to the next level to become arguably one of the best young pitchers under 25 in the majors.

While Marquez certainly is talented, he does come with expected splits for most right handers. In his career, he has allowed a .789 OPS to left-handed hitters versus a .709 OPS versus right-handed hitters. Furthermore, he also has allowed an overall OPS of .791 at home versus .708 on the road.

Along with the expected splits, the Braves specifically have had success against Marquez. They have produced a .798 OPS against Marquez in his two career starts against the Braves. Atlanta is the only team to have faced Marquez more than once in his career and walked as many times as they have struck out.

While this could turn into a pitchers’ duel, as last night showed, any game in Coors Field can change in a hurry due to instance offense. As a result, the Braves bullpen will need to be ready, as they were last night. While they allowed a few runners, going 4 innings without surrendering a run was a welcome surprise.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight could be a repeat of the same, but Wes “Clutch” Parsons is on tab to get the call if needed. However, with Minter pitching last night, Aroyds Vizcaino may be in line for the save chance tonight. That does not result in a lot of confidence after a few shaky outings against the Marlins. And for those that remember last year, Coors has not been too kind to him in the past.

All in all, this should be a fun matchup due to the arms on display. Fried could emerge as one of the majors’ breakout stars in 2019 as Marquez did last year. Hopefully, the chances of that increase after tonight.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

WPA Prediction- Dansby Swanson. In 8 career games in Coors, Swanson is now 12-28 with 8 extra base hits and 11 RBI’s. His 1.362 OPS is the 5th highest OPS mark in Coors field history for any batter with more than 30 plate appearances. In his one game against Marquez in Coors, he was 3-5 with a double and triple. Hopefully, history will repeat itself.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Tuesday, April 9, 6:40 PM MT (local time) / 8:40pm ET

Location: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

TV: Fox Sports South

Streaming: MLB.tv

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network

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