After avoiding a sweep with a 6-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves will move on and will begin a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies Thursday night at Coors Field. Atlanta is 24-27 on the season and 10.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East standings. They’re 5.5 games out of a playoff spot, too. Basically the only thing they have going for them from a long-view perspective is that the roster remains very good and the playoff odds are still above 60 percent. But it’s been grim in the standings to date.
It has been more of the same for Atlanta, who is again off to a frustrating start to the season. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are 10-13 away from Truist Park this season. They showed some signs of turning things around on their previous homestand, but were again left searching for answers after two straight losses in Arizona to begin their road trip.
After slumping through the early part of May, Austin Riley was able to finish the month strong and appears to be locked back in at the plate. Riley had two hits in Wednesday’s win, including his 13th home run of the season. He has now hit safely in 10 straight games and has homered in four of his last six games.
Ronald Acuña Jr. sat out the series finale in Arizona Wednesday the day after playing the outfield on artificial turf for the first time since returning from injury. Brian Snitker said that Acuña came in sore and that they will continue to monitor his health carefully. Acuña has appeared in 22 games and is hitting .284/.394/.432 with a 132 wRC+ in 99 plate appearances.
The Rockies split a doubleheader with the Marlins, Wednesday losing 14-1 before rallying for a 13-12 win in the night cap. They are 23-27 on the season and are 4-6 over their last 10 games. As usual, they are more than holding their own at home with a 16-12 record, but are scuffling when they have to travel.
Overall, the Rockies are kind of like the Braves with worse pitching in some ways. Their offensive outputs have been mediocre, and they have the league’s worst defensive performance to date, making them a bottom-ten position player unit. The pitching’s been okay but not great.
C.J. Cron is off to a monster start at the plate for Colorado, hitting .307/.356/.577 with 13 home runs and a 144 wRC+. Cron is hitting .392/.438/.725 with a 192 wRC+ at home. Ryan McMahon has been fine, and Yonathan Daza has a 124 wRC+ and .392 xwOBA with an ISO below .060; the rest of the position player corps has been mediocre or struggled for one reason or another. On the pitching end, it’s somewhat similar — some starters have been decent, some have struggled, and the bullpen has a few guys with horrid numbers, offset by Tyler Kinley’s superb effectiveness to date.
Thursday, June 2, 8:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Ian Anderson (9 GS, 47.2 IP, 17.6 K%, 11.3 BB%, 4.34 ERA, 4.71 FIP)
Ian Anderson will take his turn for the Braves in Thursday’s series opener. Anderson has had a strange season to date in that he has dealt with a lot of traffic on the bases, but has done a decent enough job of minimizing the damage. His strikeout rate is down consistently from 23.2 percent last season to 17.6 percent this season and the walk rate is up to 11.3 percent. If one were being generous, they could point to his xERA as a sign that he’s prioritizing weaker contact over traditional peripherals, but no matter what, he looks in line for a pretty bad season unless things improve quickly. Still, he has shown signs of turning things around, although one bad inning in each of his last two outings has skewed his final results.
On May 22, Anderson had allowed two earned runs through six innings before returning for the seventh despite having already thrown 92 pitches. He didn’t retire a batter in the seventh and was tagged for two more additional runs. In his last outing, Anderson breezed through five scoreless innings before allowing a pair of two-run home runs in the sixth. Per FanGraphs, Anderson has a 2.79 ERA when facing a lineup for the first time and a 2.70 ERA the second time through. However, he has an 11.88 ERA and a 7.34 FIP when facing a lineup for the third time.
Austin Gomber (9 GS, 47.1 IP, 17.9 K%, 8.2 BB%, 5.51 ERA, 4.32 FIP)
Left-hander Austin Gomber will start for the Rockies in the opener and will be looking to bounce back after a rough outing. Gomber allowed seven hits, three walks and eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings of his last start against the Nationals. Through five starts in May, Gomber has allowed 20 runs in 26 1/3 innings and has nine walks and 15 strikeouts over that span. Gomber has allowed incredibly hard contact to start the year, but a relative lack of homers and fly balls allowed has kept his non-xERA peripherals from being awful.
Friday, June 3, 8:40 p.m. ET (Apple TV+)
Max Fried (10 GS, 61.0 IP, 22.9 K%, 4.4 BB%, 3.10 ERA, 2.98 FIP)
Max Fried will make his 11th start of the season for the Braves in the second game of the series Friday. Fried continued his strong start to the season in his last outing where he allowed six hits and one run over six innings in a win over the Marlins. He pitched around a season-high three walks and struck out five. Fried has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts so far this season. Fried has made one start and one relief appearance in his career at Coors Field allowing eight hits and three earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.
Chad Kuhl (9 GS, 48.0 IP, 18.8 K%, 8.9 BB%, 3.56 ERA, 4.04 FIP)
Rescued off the scrap heap from Pittsburgh, right-hander Chad Kuhl has put together a solid start to the 2022 season for the Rockies. Kuhl posted a 1.90 ERA through four April starts, but things started to come apart in the middle of May, where he allowed 10 runs in a 7 2/3 inning stretch over two starts. He has since righted the ship, allowing three runs combined over his last two outings. Kuhl has pitched well against the Braves in his career, allowing nine hits and three earned runs in 11 career innings against Atlanta.
Saturday, June 4, 9:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Spencer Strider (12 G, 1 GS, 28.2 IP, 38.6 K%, 11.4 BB%, 3.45 ERA, 1.88 FIP)
Spencer Strider will stay in the rotation and make his second career start in Saturday’s matchup. The final numbers on Strider’s first start aren’t really indicative of how he pitched. He allowed four hits and five runs to go along with two walks and seven strikeouts in just 4 1/3 innings in Arizona. Despite some shaky defense behind him, Strider showed poise on the mound and leaned heavily on a changeup that he hadn’t really shown much of as a reliever.
The fifth spot in the rotation has been a season-long problem for Atlanta. The final results weren’t good in Strider’s first start, but he showed more promise than any of the other options have to date.
Kyle Freeland (10 GS, 52.2 IP, 17.4 K%, 7.9 BB%, 4.96 ERA, 4.15 FIP)
Left-hander Kyle Freeland will start Saturday’s game opposite of Strider and is looking to find some consistency. He allowed seven hits, four walks and five runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last start at Washington. Freeland made six starts in May and allowed three runs or fewer in four of them. He allowed a combined 19 hits and 11 earned runs in the other two. He is someone that hasn’t found the thin air at Coors all that inviting as he has a 6.25 ERA and a 4.31 FIP in 31 innings at home this season. Like Gomber, he’s limited homers despite hard contact, which makes his FIP and xFIP look a lot better than his xERA.
Sunday, June 5, 3:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Charlie Morton (10 GS, 49.1 IP, 20.7 K%, 9.9 BB%, 5.47 ERA, 4.62 FIP)
Charlie Morton will get the call for Atlanta in the finale Sunday and will be hoping June will finally be the real start of a turnaround for his season. Morton looked like he was starting to figure things out but a pair of rough outings have just added to the inconsistency he’s shown so far. He has struggled at times with his command and just hasn’t been able to put away hitters in the same manner that we have seen in previous seasons. Morton has allowed 13 hits and eight earned runs in his last 9 1/3 innings. He has made six career starts at Coors Field and has a 5.08 ERA in 33 2/3 innings.
The Rockies haven’t announced their starter for Sunday’s game yet but right-hander Ryan Feltner looks like a candidate. Feltner has made three starts so far this season and has put up a 3.71 ERA and a 3.38 FIP in 17 innings.