After a rough weekend against the San Diego Padres, the Atlanta Braves will try to pick up the pieces (at least as many pieces as need to be picked up after a 6-4 start that’s given them a lead in the division) as they finish out their homestand with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Atlanta collected a walkoff win in their home opener, but were then outscored 19-7 over the final three games of the series. Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd both struggled and the offense was pretty quiet, hitting way too many grounders. It was a painful series in another sense as well: Michael Harris II left the opener Thursday with a back strain and was placed on the Injured List, while Travis d’Arnaud was involved in a collision at the plate in Saturday’s game and was placed on the 7-day Concussion Injured List on Sunday. They joined a group of shelved Braves that includes Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Raisel Iglesias and Collin McHugh.
The Reds scored one in the eighth and three in the ninth Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep in Philadelphia. They will enter the series with a 4-4 record. T.J. Friedl (179 wRC+) and Spencer Steer (137 wRC+) are off to good starts at the plate, but the Reds entered play Sunday 25th in the majors in runs scored. Their pitching staff, though, was tied for fourth in fWAR and were seventh with a 3.56 FIP. The Braves will miss Nick Lodolo, but will see Graham Ashcraft in the opener Monday.
There will be plenty of fastballs to go around on Wednesday when Spencer Strider matches up against Hunter Greene.
Monday, April 10, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Graham Ashcraft (2023: 1 GS, 7.0 IP, 23.1 K%, 3.8 BB%, 52.6 GB%, 1.29 ERA, 3.91 FIP)
Right-hander Graham Ashcraft will get the start in Monday’s series opener. Ashcraft is part of a group of young pitchers that Cincinnati is hoping will anchor their rotation for the foreseeable future. He pitched well in his debut allowing four hits, one run and struck out six over seven innings against the Pirates.
Ashcraft put up 1.3 fWAR in 105 innings for the Reds last year, which isn’t overly impressive but has to be considered a win for a guy that was never all that highly touted and didn’t have a deep minor league track record of success. He doesn’t really strike anyone out, but has a funky cutter/slider/sinker mix that did a fine job managing the plentiful contact he allowed last year — probably by surprising batters.
Monday will be his first career appearance against Atlanta. If the Braves aren’t prepared for his unorthodox approach, it could be another frustrating, grounder-filled game for their bats.
Bryce Elder (2023: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 27.3 K%, 13.6 BB%, 50.0 GB%, 0.00 ERA, 3.34 FIP)
Bryce Elder will stick in the rotation and start Monday’s series opener. Elder was called up to replace Max Fried in the rotation last Wednesday in St. Louis. The Braves staked Elder to an early lead against the Cardinals and he pitched well from there, allowing two hits and three walks over six innings.
Tuesday, April 11, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Luis Cessa (2023: 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 8.3 K%, 12.5 BB%, 42.1 GB%, 3.38 ERA, 4.27 FIP)
Right-hander Luis Cessa will make his second start of the season against the Braves on Tuesday. Cessa spent most of the 2022 season pitching out of the Reds bullpen before finishing the season in the rotation, though he was dreadful pretty much all year.
He allowed four hits, three walks and two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Cubs in his first start. Cessa has appeared in eight games against the Braves in his career where he has allowed five earned runs in 9 1/3 career innings.
The Braves haven’t announced their starter for Tuesday yet. Kyle Wright logged six innings at Gwinnett last week and came out feeling good. Brian Snitker was noncommittal, saying that the team will see how Wright feels after his next side session. Barring any setbacks, it seems like it will be Wright on Tuesday.
Wednesday, April 12, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Hunter Greene (2023: 2 GS, 8.0 IP, 32.5 K%, 15.0 BB%, 10.0 GB%, 5.63 ERA, 3.96 FIP)
Wednesday’s game will feature an excellent matchup between a pair of young fireballers. Hunter Greene will start his third game of the season and will be looking to get on track. Greene allowed three runs and struck out eight, but lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Opening Day. He allowed two runs and logged five more strikeouts in his next start, but lasted just 4 2/3 innings.
Greene pitched better than his line suggests last year: his 103 ERA- and 104 FIP- are undercut by his 91 xFIP-, suggesting that fly ball luck and perhaps his home ballpark did him few favors. That said, walks and fly balls are a dangerous combination, and his starts feature a lot of both. The walks have continued this season, as Greene has walked six over his first eight innings. He has one previous start against the Braves, last April, where he allowed three runs and struck out seven over five innings.
Spencer Strider (2023: 2 GS, 11.0 IP, 40.0 K%, 13.3 BB%, 28.6 GB%, 2.45 ERA, 2.88 FIP)
Spencer Strider will make his third start of the season opposite Greene on Wednesday. He tossed six scoreless innings and struck out nine against the Nationals in the opening series. Strider wasn’t quite as sharp in his next outing, where he gave up four hits, three walks and three runs in five innings against the Padres, though the runs all came on a three-run homer and he was dominant for stretches before and after the damage was done. He still struck out nine in that outing and has 18 over his first 11 innings.