Following their second straight loss to the Marlins, the Braves now find themselves in danger of suffering their first three-game sweep of this season if they can’t find a way to take one from Miami tonight.
The obvious good news for tonight’s game is that Ozzie Albies has been activated and it’s safe to assume that he’ll probably be starting tonight. If he can quickly return to form, then the Braves lineup might actually wind up being one of the deepest in all of baseball. Atlanta’s lineup is currently sixth in MLB in both wRC+ (114 as a unit) and OPS+ (110), and they’ve done most of that damage while Ozzie has been on the sidelines since early August. In addition to the offense, having Ozzie’s ever-reliable glove back out there at second base should be a huge relief. You really don’t need anybody to tell you that having one of your best players return from injury is a good thing, but it’s still true: Ozzie coming back means that the Braves are absolutely better off now than they were before.
At the plate, Ozzie and the rest of the lineup will have to make sure that Pablo Lopez doesn’t have a bounce-back start for the Marlins tonight. When he took the mound for Miami back on September 4, he had a pretty rough time dealing with the Rays. It was to the point where he walked in a run and exited the game with more earned runs (five) than innings pitched (four). The bad outing was actually a bit out-of-character for Lopez, who’s been pretty reliable for the Marlins as a starter so far during this season. While I’m absolutely hoping that the Braves are going to catch him in the midst of a rough patch, the safe bet would be to assume that Pablo Lopez is likely going to return to form. That would also follow the theme of seemingly nothing going right for the Braves so far in the first two games of this series, but hopefully the Braves can compound Lopez’s frustrations from the Tampa game and turn them into further frustrations tonight.
Although Atlanta’s rotation woes have been well-known ever since Mike Foltynewicz was shown the door after one start, it’s still absolutely mortifying to actually see how things have developed from that point forward when it comes to the starters for the Braves. Even when there have been glimmers of hope like seeing Mike Soroka and Max Fried do well, they’ve ended up suffering injuries and the nightmare continues. There’s always a chance of seeing new names and faces in the rotation, but you would’ve been hard-pressed to predict this type of flux for the Braves rotation in 2020.
The state of Atlanta's rotation ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/Vszn61RqPV— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) September 8, 2020
The story remains the same for Tommy Milone tonight. If he can give you four or five innings while holding the Marlins at bay during that time, the Braves will probably be thrilled. Atlanta’s offense always has the potential to break out for an inning, so having the starting pitching keep the game competitive for just those few innings could go a long way towards giving Atlanta a win this evening. With that in mind, tonight’s starter is another example of the desperate times that the Braves find themselves in when it comes to starting pitching.
The Braves decided to stick with Tommy Milone as the only outside help that they would go out and get for the trade deadline and the results have been extremely mixed over his first two starts. I’m not going to discuss his first start but I will say that his second start was a vast improvement. Even still, the fact that a four-inning start (in a seven-inning game) with only one run allowed is considered to be both a vast improvement and ‘about what you’d expect from him’ should really tell you how things are going for the Braves right now right now when it comes to their rotation.
At this rate, I think that we’d all be happy about Tommy Milone pulling out a repeat performance either with innings pitched or runs allowed — especially if he delivered in both categories. Hopefully, Milone’s improvement from rock bottom to decent turns into a good start on his third time around. Atlanta’s offense has proven that they can break out for plenty of runs at any given time, and it sure helps to have a solid pitching performance to fall back on in those situations where the offense does come to life.
So while tonight’s game is should be exciting if only for the fact that Ozzie is going to return to the field, there’s still plenty of frustration from the last two nights that need to be exorcised as well. With one of the best second basemen in all of baseball making his return to the team tonight, here’s hoping that his return coincides with what would be an absolute relief of a victory this evening.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, September 9, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network