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What to watch for in Wednesday night’s Athletics-Braves matchup

Jared Koenig’s major league debut; Braves love facing lefties

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Division Series - Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves - Game Three Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

After a come-from-behind 3-2 win fueled by three solo homers on Tuesday night, the Braves will go for a second consecutive sweep, and seventh win in a row, in Wednesday’s game against Oakland. Here are a few things to get up to speed on ahead of the game.

Jared Koenig’s MLB Debut

Koenig’s whirlwind career continues with him set to appear in a major league uniform for the first time tonight. Koenig was drafted in the 35th round in 2014 but instead went to college, where he ended up undrafted after two unremarkable pitching seasons. He then spent four years playing in various unaffiliated leagues until the Athletics signed him and put him in Double-A. While his 2021 Double-A stint was pretty meh, he’s kicked it up a decent bit during his first nine games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League: 2.21 / 3.42 / 4.22 is fairly nifty, and a 22.2 percent K%-BB% is great.

Koenig’s ascent isn’t a case of throwing hard, though. If you want to know more about his arsenal, I suggest Melissa Lockard’s excellent treatment in The Athletic: . He’s likely going to attack the Braves with a bevy sinkers, as well as a slider/cutter and some other kitchen sink-type offerings.

But the Braves Love Lefties

While stranger things than a unheralded, soft-tossing lefty shutting down a major league lineup have been seen on the baseball diamond, the Braves may be well-suited to making Koenig’s debut relatively unpleasant (for him).

On the season, the Braves rank fourth in MLB in xwOBA against left-handed pitching (third in wOBA). They’re fifth in xwOBA (second in wOBA) against left-handed starters. They have an absurd .504 xwOBA (.550 wOBA) in PAs that end in two-seamers/sinkers from lefty starters (both second in MLB). In general, they’re consistently top-five-ish in both wOBA and xwOBA in terms of any kind of fastball-esque offering from a lefty.

Every regular except Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, and Marcell Ozuna has an above-average xwOBA against lefties; only Olson and Ozuna have struggled against lefty starters. Dansby Swanson, William Contreras, and Adam Duvall have a .600+ xwOBA against lefty sinkers/two-seamers; Michael Harris II and Matt Olson are at .500+, and Austin Riley is nearly there as well. Both Ronald Acuña Jr. and William Contreras have .480+ xwOBAs against lefties in general, with Riley and Swanson also above .400. Acuña is fifth in MLB in xwOBA versus lefties among players that have stood in against a southpaw for 30 or more PAs; Contreras is eighth.

The Braves haven’t actually lost a game against a lefty starter going back to May 6, when Eric Lauer defeated them in a 6-3 game. I don’t mean, “a pitcher got a pitching win against the Braves,” either. Since May 7, the Braves have won nine straight games in which the opposing starter was a lefty. They’ve averaged nearly seven runs a game in those contests, and hadn’t scored fewer than five runs in any of them until yesterday night.

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