The Braves are currently embarking on what figures to be a crucial West Coast road trip and it all starts tonight with the first game in a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
The obvious storyline for tonight’s game (outside of Atlanta’s relentless pursuit of first place in the National League East) is the return of Matt Olson to Oakland. We’re probably not going to see a ton of the pomp and circumstance that usually happens whenever a player returns to his old stomping grounds (or in the case of Oakland, The Stomping Ground) but also here’s hoping that Olson can do some big hitting in the Coliseum like he did for the handful of seasons that he played there. For what it’s worth, Olson racked up three hits and an RBI during the two-game series between these two clubs that took place in Cobb County back in June.
One of Olson’s hits back in June came against tonight’s starter for the A’s: Cole Irvin. Irvin has had a pretty good season this year but with that being said, he’s found himself in a bit of a rough patch recently. He’s given up at least five runs in three of his past four starts. The only exception was when he tossed seven shutout innings against the Marlins while striking out 11 and only giving up three hits. So Irvin does have the potential to be pretty good on his day.
He’s also not going to walk too many batters either — he’s currently in the 94th percentile of pitchers when it comes to walk rate (it’s currently sitting at a paltry 4.6 percent for the season) and he’s also doing that while getting batters to chase an inordinate amount of his pitches. With that being said, Irvin’s statistical profile doesn’t exactly cast an imposing figure and here’s hoping that the Braves don’t find themselves getting lulled into being docile at the plate against this guy tonight.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s offense will be forced to deal with Kyle Wright on the mound tonight. August was a fantastic month for Kyle Wright, as he’s only given up three runs in his last four starts combined and he’s been great in each of those starts. He’s also been remarkably consistent — he’s only walked one or two batters in each start, he’s gone six or seven innings as well and he’s only given up one homer over that span. Wright has been stepping it up in terms of quality and he should have a pretty good shot at keeping the good times rolling against this Oakland lineup.
The A’s are coming into this game with a team wRC+ of 85, which is the third-worst number in all of baseball and the second-worst number in the American League. It also doesn’t help them tonight in particular that their road wRC+ (88) is higher than their home wRC+ (80), which is the lowest mark for a home team across baseball. While Sean Murphy has been establishing himself as one of the best-hitting catchers in Major League Baseball today, there’s not a lot else going on here. If Kyle Wright has a good night then this could come down to the Braves simply taking care of business with Cole Irvin pitching for Oakland.
The Braves once again find themselves within striking distance of reclaiming the lead in the NL East. While tonight’s game against the A’s may seem like a very good matchup on paper, they’ve still got to focus as if they’re taking on a very dangerous team. As the Nationals showed in New York over the weekend, these bottom-tier teams are still playing hard and they’re going to relish being potential spoilers in a pennant race for any team. As long as Kyle Wright and Atlanta’s lineup shows up ready to take on the task at hand, this should be a manageable game for the Braves as they make a rare appearance in Oakland tonight.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, September 6, 9:40 p.m. ET
Location: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan