After taking a punch right on the chin in their home opening series against the San Diego Padres, the Atlanta Braves are now looking to bounce back against the Cincinnati Reds in the beginning of a three-game series in Cobb County.
The pitching in the series against San Diego wasn’t exactly great and if we’re being honest, it was asking a lot of both Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster to figure out a way to stop that Padres lineup in each of their second career MLB starts. This means that it’s on Bryce Elder to hopefully right the ship and get things pointed back in the right direction for this rotation.
If anybody’s been doing their level best to earn the trust of the Braves, it’s been Bryce Elder. If you remember, Elder was somehow the only starting pitcher for the Braves to pitch a complete game shutout last season and his debut this season went about as well as you could imagine. Elder pitched six shutout innings and struck out six St. Louis Cardinals batters in his last outing, which was everything Atlanta could have wanted in that particular start. He’s more-than-earned another chance to stick around in the majors and now he’ll be tasked with keeping this Reds lineup quiet for another game.
When it comes to the Reds, their best offensive weapon so far this season has been TJ Friedl. While Friedl does have a couple of homers under his belt, his power hasn’t been his calling card. Instead, it’s been the fact that he already has four hits on five bunts this season and got two in one game against the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend. As a result, his four bunt hits alone have him tied with the San Francisco Giants (yes, the whole team) with the most in Major League Baseball at this extremely early point of the season. He’s absolutely not going to keep this pace up for the entire season but the Braves are catching him while he’s in the midst of it so they’ll have to be ready for that tonight.
Meanwhile, they’ll also have to be ready for Graham Ashcraft and his weird arsenal of pitches. He’s got a cutter, a slider and a sinker and while he’s not going to miss a ton of bats with that mix, he’s done a decent job of avoiding walks and inducing weak exit velocity when batters do make contact with his stuff. The recipe for success sounds simple but much harder to actually apply in this situation: Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of hitting ground balls right towards the welcoming gloves of Reds infielders.
Ashcraft did give up a home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first start of this season but that was the only damage he surrendered against that team as he went seven innings with four hits, one walk and six strikeouts. The Braves figure to have a much tougher lineup than the Pirates do but this could still be a tough night at the office for Atlanta if they don’t know how to deal with Ashcraft’s pitch selection.
The Reds will be coming to face Atlanta after having lost three of their past four games and just got done dropping a series to the Philadelphia Phillies. The obvious hope for tonight’s game is that the Braves are able to end Cincinnati’s win streak at a grand total of one (1) game by keeping their offense quiet and figuring out a way to effectively hit Graham Ashcraft.
Atlanta’s in a tiny bit of a rut at the moment after dropping the home opening series to the Padres and also dealing with some very early injury woes, but this is still a matchup that the Braves should feel confident heading into. It’s time for the Braves to get things back under control and no time is better than the present, right?
Game Date/Time: Monday, April 10, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan