The Atlanta Braves will continue their homestand Tuesday with a brief two-game series against the Boston Red Sox. The Braves scored their second series win of the season over the weekend, taking two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers. Atlanta is 14-16 and six games back of the New York Mets.
The Red Sox come into the series struggling, having lost five straight and eight of their last ten overall. They just finished a six-game homestand where they went 1-5, dropping two of three to the Angels before being swept in three games against the White Sox. They are 10-19 and dead last in the AL East, 10 games back of the Yankees.
Boston’s pitching ranks 18th in the league in ERA (3.71) and 21st in FIP (3.91). However, it is the offense that has been the biggest problem. The Red Sox are 27th in the league in runs scored and have a team wRC+ of 79, which ranks ahead of only Oakland and Cincinnati. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez have done their best to keep things afloat, but the rest of the lineup has struggled considerably. Both teams in this series have sizable xwOBA underperformances — the Braves are tied with the Astros for the third-biggest, and the Red Sox are tied with four teams for the fifth-biggest. While the Braves have two regulars at .390+ in xwOBA terms and another four with average-or-better marks (Adam Duvall is the sole current regular struggling in terms of offensive inputs), the Red Sox have no one above .390, four players with an above-average market, and five regulars or semi-regulars with something way below average. Both Christian Arroyo and Alex Verdugo are underperforming their xwOBA by nearly .100; on the Braves, the only four guys with anything near that horrendous twist of fate are either no longer on the active roster or basically benched full time.
Boston invested $140 million into free agent Trevor Story this past offseason, but haven’t seen good returns as he is hitting just .194/.276/.269 with no homers and a 62 wRC+. His story (pun intended) is not one solely written by underperformance, as he has a .287 xwOBA.
Tuesday, May 10, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast, TBS)
Garrett Whitlock (7 G, 3 GS, 21.2 IP, 35.8 K%, 4.9 BB%, 1.25 ERA, 2.15 FIP, 2.10 xFIP)
Right-hander Garrett Whitlock will get the start in the opener for the Red Sox. He will be making his fourth start since joining the rotation. Whitlock began the season in the bullpen, where he allowed just one run over his first four appearances (9 2/3 innings). Whitlock has continued his strong early-season work as a starter and has stretched out over three outings. He allowed two hits and two runs over five innings in his last start against the Angels.
Whitlock relies on a sinker that averages just over 95 mph along with a changeup and a slider. He is throwing the sinker over 57% of the time while mixing in the change and the slider. His changeup has yet to yield a hit to an opposing hitter this season. Contact off Whitlock has actually been super-hard, but his sinker and slider force hitters to hit the ball into the ground, while the changeup has resulted in pop-up after pop-up. If hitters can adjust, he might start getting crushed, but right now he’s pounding the zone, getting whiffs, and avoiding useful launch angles when hitters do make hard contact.
Kyle Wright (5 GS, 31 IP, 30.6 K%, 5.8 BB%, 1.74 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 2.59 xFIP)
Kyle Wright will be operating with two extra days of rest when he takes the mound for Atlanta in the opener. Wright’s good start to the season has been one of the biggest storylines for the Braves so far. He has logged seven innings in each of his past two starts despite not having his A+ stuff. Wright allowed nine hits and three runs over seven innings while striking out a season-low three batters in his last start against the Mets.
Wright brings a solid four-pitch mix and has taken a more aggressive approach in his five starts this season. He is throwing the curveball 33 percent of the time and opponents are hitting just .186 against it with a xwOBA of .210.
Wednesday, May 11, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Nathan Eovaldi (6 GS, 33.2 IP, 26.3 K%, 4.4 BB%, 2.94 ERA, 4.65 FIP, 2.89 xFIP)
Hard throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will make his seventh start of the season for the Red Sox Wednesday. Eovaldi allowed six hits and three runs over five innings in his last start against the White Sox. That snapped a streak of two starts where he had logged at least seven innings. The home run ball has been a bit of a problem for Eovaldi who has allowed eight over his first six starts.
Eovaldi relies mostly on his four-seamer that is averaging just under 97 mph while also mixing in a curve, splitter and slider. The curve has been great so far, but the other things have been hit fairly-hard; Eovaldi’s line is mostly as good as it is because he’s barely walked anyone. But, if the wOBA on the fastball (currently .244) nudges up to its xwOBA (.306), then he might become very reliant on the curve to get outs, as little else has worked in the early going.
Ian Anderson (5 GS, 24.2 IP, 17.0 K%, 14.2 BB%, 4.01 ERA, 5.02 FIP, 4.66 xFIP)
Ian Anderson will make his sixth start of the season for the Braves in Wednesday’s series finale. Since allowing five runs in his 2022 debut, Anderson has allowed six earned runs combined over his last four outings. He is still dealing with a lot of base runners and his peripherals suggest that he has been a bit fortunate. He allowed five hits and one run over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the Mets, but issued four more walks and has 10 in his last 22 innings.
The velocity on Anderson’s fastball is down a tick to 93.4 mph through his first five starts. Opponents have hit just .209 against his four-seamer but have xwOBA of .363.