Is it ok to be a bit disappointed?
Do not get me wrong, a 9.5 game lead, a magic number in the single digits, a season where at least 95 wins seems to be a lock is amazing. But yet, after taking three of four from Washington and now with a chance to do it in Philadelphia, is there a bit of disappointment in this month being anti-climatic so far?
The Atlanta Braves have arguably been the best team in the National League in the second half of the season, and have won at a higher rate than they have in more than two decades. The fact that we have not even done it at full strength makes it even more amazing. Without a doubt, ironing out postseason roles, getting players back in the groove from injuries, and simple rest for regulars should be on the mind of the front office and coaching staff. But with 15 games left, the main focus should be ending this thing as soon as possible. Clinch the division, secure the playoff spot, and then prepare from there.
As Atlanta wraps up their week in Philadelphia before heading out for an enjoyable weekend in Washington, the Braves will look to their own Citadel of Consistency in Julio Teheran ( 3.31 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 5.11 xFIP). If anyone questions rather or not Teheran should have a spot in the postseason rotation, they are simply being logical. Teheran arguably has the lowest ceiling in terms of dominance of the Braves current starting rotation. Dominance is needed more than dependability in the playoffs, at least to an extent. However, there is no doubt that Teheran’s dependability has been quite valuable this year, and that the Braves should have confidence in utilizing him in some form in October.
With his 30th start of the season tonight, Teheran has reached rarefied air in the history of the Braves franchise. He is one of only nine Braves to have seven seasons of 30 or more starts. Furthermore, Teheran will look to earn his 16th quality start of the season. If he accomplishes that goal, it will be the 132nd time he has accomplished that feat in a start for the Braves. Over the past 30 years, a time frame in which the Braves arguably have had the best starting pitching of any franchise in the majors, only Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Tim Hudson have reached that plateau more.
Teheran’s success has been a mix of luck and skill (shocking, I agree). In the second half of 2019, Teheran has produced the best second half K% of his career as well as the best LOB% of his career. Teheran has simply made the pitches he has needed to make more often than not to get out of jams. That has been the narrative of his whole career, and this year he has successfully walked straight and confident across the tightrope. In one of the best years of his career, it has been fun to see his success play a big role in the Braves emergence as a true title contender.
On the mound for the Phillies is perhaps one of the better second half stories in all of baseball. Drew Smyly (6.20 ERA, 6.43 FIP, 5.36 xfIP) has returned in 2019 after more than two years away from pitching due to injuries. While Smyly struggled mightily to begin the season, he has found his groove in the second half (3.93 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 4.32 xFIP). The Phillies are 7-2 in his nine second half starts, as Smyly has consistently put them in position to win. A surprising fact is that Smyly has only thrown 2⁄3 of an inning against the Braves in his career. While Atlanta has success against southpaws, Smyly’s current success could provide problems for the lineup tonight.
While a platoon preference may make sense for Atlanta, The Braves may want to simply go with their best offensive lineup. Lefties have a 1.163 OPS in 103 plate appearances against Smyly this year, so the Braves should have all their options at their disposal. In the end, for Smyly and Teheran, the key will be who can limit walks and make the big pitches needed to minimize any damage they may encounter.
If Teheran can do his job, the Braves offense should land another big hit or two to give the Braves a good chance to secure another series win in Philadelphia.
WPA- Josh Donaldson- Simply because if we can win three out of four in Philly due to Donaldson’s bat after his catch last night, we can all sing “When it Rains, It Pours” in excitement.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, September 12, 7:15 p.m. ET
Location: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
TV: Fox Sports
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network