After a successful road trip, the Atlanta Braves will return home for a six-game homestand, starting with a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics. The Braves capped off a stretch of 17 straight games with a 5-2 road trip and have currently won a season-best five-straight games. Atlanta climbed back above .500 for the first time since early April with an 8-7 win Sunday. The Braves are 28-27 on the season and are 8.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East standings entering play on Monday. They are two games out of a playoff spot, behind the San Francisco Giants.
Austin Riley broke out from a two week slump by hitting .355/.412/.774 with three home runs during the road trip. Ronald Acuña Jr. homered Sunday and looks like he might be ready to go on a tear after hitting .385/.452/.577. Even Adam Duvall, who has been in a season-long slump at the plate, went 4-for-9 with a homer in the final two games of the series in Colorado.
Tuesday’s game will be Matt Olson’s first time facing his old club since the trade that landed him in Atlanta. Olson spent the first six years of his professional career with Oakland, hitting .252/.348/.511 with 142 home runs.
Oakland comes into the series struggling, having lost six straight games and nine of their last 10 overall. After a 10-11 start to the season, the A’s are 10-25 since. One surprising note is that they are 13-13 on the road and just 7-23 at home. Their offseason roster teardown has left them with a punchless offense as they rank 29th in the league in runs scored and wRC+. They have the worst xwOBA as a team in MLB.
The A’s roster features a couple of familiar faces to Braves fans in Cristian Pache and catcher Christian Bethancourt. Pache, who was part of the Olson trade, has struggled offensively hitting just .167/.215/.235. No surprise, but Pache has been great defensively in center field and has put up +6 Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant. It has been a long and winding career for Bethancourt, who made his major league debut with the Braves in 2013. He is back in the majors for the first time since 2017 with Oakland and is hitting .228/.278/.327 with an 80 wRC+ in 109 plate appearances. You might think that a weak batting line is apropos for a guy that’s bounced around like Bethancourt, but don’t be fooled! His .362 xwOBA is quite good and leads the team.
Overall, though, the Athletics have really struggled to get anything going on the position player side because they have a mix of good fielders and decent hitters, but not really anyone doing both. Ramon Laureano, who missed the first month or so of this season due to a PED suspension, is the only player on their roster that has amassed even marginally positive offensive and defensive value so far. Catcher Sean Murphy leads the position player unit in fWAR with 1.0, but has a below-average 87 wRC+. Elvis Andrus has 0.7 fWAR with a 106 wRC+ and some positive baserunning value, but has been horrid defensively. 11 of the 20 position players that have gotten at least a PA for Oakland so far this year have 0.0 or less fWAR.
The pitching end is less grim; Oakland ranks 22nd in pitching fWAR, with a 17th-ranked bullpen. Frankie Montas and unheralded, formerly replacement-level-type-guy Paul Blackburn have been among baseball’s best starters so far, but the trio of James Kaprelian, Zach Logue, and Adam Oller, who have started 16 of Oakland’s 56 games so far, have been horendous. Rookie Dany Jimenez heads a bullpen unit with some really variable performance across the board.
Tuesday, June 7, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Cole Irvin (8 GS, 45.2 IP, 14.8 K%, 5.8 BB%, 2.96 ERA, 4.13 FIP)
Left-hander Cole Irvin will get the start for Oakland in the opener. Irvin has been a relative bright spot for the A’s pitching staff posting a 2.96 ERA through his first eight starts albeit with a 4.13 FIP and a 5.07 xERA. His pitching line is actually really weird: he’s allowed a boatload of hard contact, but has limited walks enough in doing so that his peripherals aren’t horrid. An insanely-high strand rate explains his ERA. Regression is probably on the way, but hasn’t hit so far. His results have been good as he has posted a 3.00 ERA and a 3.42 FIP in 18 innings since returning from a stint on the Injured List with a sore shoulder. He allowed six hits and two walks, but just one run over 5 2/3 innings in his last start against Houston.
Kyle Wright (10 GS, 59.2 IP, 27.5 K%, 9.6 BB%, 2.41 ERA, 2.95 FIP)
Kyle Wright will take his turn for the Braves in the opener and will be looking to continue his strong start to the season. Wright allowed just three hits over six shutout innings in his last start in Arizona. He walked a season-high five batters, but as he has done multiple times this season, didn’t let the extra traffic affect him. His walk rate is something to keep an eye on as it has started to creep up as the season has progressed.
Wednesday, June 8, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Jared Koenig (Triple A: 9 G, 8 GS, 53.0 IP, 29.5 K%, 7.2 BB%, 2.21 ERA, 3.43 FIP)
The A’s will call up 28-year old left-hander Jared Koenig to make the start in Wednesday’s series finale. Koenig is quite a story as he has seemingly come out of nowhere to put himself in position to make his major league debut. He has put up good numbers in the PCL, posting a 29.5 percent strikeout rate to go along with a 2.21 ERA and a 3.43 FIP in 53 innings. Despite his 6’5” frame, Koenig isn’t overpowering, but instead relies on good command and the ability to change speeds. If the Braves are going to get shut down by a soft-tossing lefty without a lot of experience, this is a game that makes sense for it.
Ian Anderson (10 GS, 53.2 IP, 19.5 K%, 10.4 BB%, 4.70 ERA, 4.75 FIP)
Ian Anderson will get the call for the Braves in the series finale Wednesday. Anderson received 13 runs of support in his last start and while he did post a season-best nine strikeouts, he again struggled when facing the lineup for the third time. Anderson allowed one run through the first four innings before the Rockies tagged him for three in the fifth and another in the sixth.
Per FanGraphs, here is the breakdown of Anderson facing an opponent’s order:
First time: 2.95 ERA, 4.87 FIP
Second time: 2.42 ERA, 2.87 FIP
Third time: 13.50 ERA, 8.64 FIP
To further illustrate the point, opponents are hitting .417/.472/.792 with a .535 wOBA when facing Anderson for a third time.