After finishing their homestand with a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Atlanta Braves will head back out on a six-game road trip Friday night. The first stop of their two-city trip involves them facing off against the Kansas City Royals. Atlanta went 4-3 on the homestand and has an NL-best 9-4 record for the season.
The Braves still aren’t quite hitting on all cylinders, but have nonetheless peeled off more wins than any team other than the Rays over the first 13 games. The team’s performance has been middling overall, but they’ve managed to outscore their opponents and bank wins despite ranking just ninth in position player fWAR and 11th in pitching fWAR so far this season. Injuries have played a huge part in some of the subpar performance, though Kyle Wright returned to the rotation Tuesday and Max Fried could follow him during the road trip. Brian Snitker said Wednesday that Michael Harris II is feeling good, but continues to receive treatment for his back strain. Travis d’Arnaud is on the 7-day Concussion Injured List and there isn’t any indication yet as to when he might be ready to return. Orlando Arcia was hit on the wrist with a pitch in the finale with the Reds and will be placed on the IL after further tests indicated a microfracture.
Sam Hilliard has seen the bulk of playing time in center with Harris out and has helped fill the hole (140 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR), despite a high strikeout rate (46 percent) and underwhelming inputs (.269 xwOBA). Sean Murphy has seen all of the playing time behind the plate with d’Arnaud out and had three doubles and a walk-off home run in the series against the Reds.
The Royals come into the series with a 4-9 record and are in fourth place in the AL Central. They snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 10-1 win over the Rangers. Kansas City entered Thursday’s offday tied for 27th in runs scored and tied for 20th in home runs. One player that hasn’t struggled offensively is first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who is hitting .293/.408/.561 with two home runs and a 163 wRC+ through his first 13 games.
Friday, April 14, 8:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast, MLB Network)
Charlie Morton (2023: 2 GS, 10.1 IP, 13.5 K%, 9.6 BB%, 48.7 GB%, 4.35 ERA, 5.05 FIP)
Charlie Morton will make his third start of the season in Friday’s series opener. Morton’s start to the season has been a bit of a mixed bag over his first two outings. He allowed nine hits and three runs in his first start against the Cardinals while tallying just one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings. Morton struck out six in his next start against the Padres, but allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) and ran up a high pitch count that led to an exit after five innings. His stuff is still good, but he hasn’t quite been able to get everything dialed in, and at least his second start was a huge improvement over his first.
Brady Singer (2023: 2 GS, 11.0 IP, 15.9 K%, 6.8 BB%, 45.5 GB%, 4.91 ERA, 4.13 FIP)
Brady Singer will get the start opposite Morton in Friday’s opener. Singer will be looking to bounce back after a rough start his last time out where he allowed eight hits and five runs in six innings against the Giants. Singer has a career 93 ERA-, 94 FIP-, and 90 xFIP- over 357 innings, and set a career high with 2.9 fWAR and 153 1⁄3 innings last year. His first two starts of the year have been kind of strange — he had a 3/3 K/BB ratio but only allowed a single run in his season debut, and then had a much better 6/0 K/BB ratio but gave up some hard contact in the start after, with much worse results.
Friday will be Singer’s first career start against Atlanta.
Saturday, April 15, 4:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Bryce Elder (2 GS, 12.1 IP, 28.3 K%, 8.7 BB%, 50.0 GB%, 0.00 ERA, 2.51 FIP)
Bryce Elder has been the biggest surprise of the Braves’ rotation over the first two turns. Elder began the season at Gwinnett, but stepped in to replace Max Fried after the latter was placed on the IL with a hamstring injury. Since then, Elder has made two starts where he has allowed eight hits combined over 12 1/3 scoreless innings. It took a roundabout way of getting there, but Elder’s spot in the rotation is secure for now. His first start of the year was only okay (6/3 K/BB ratio), but he really impressed by throwing a 7/1 K/BB ratio together in 6 1⁄3 scoreless frames against the Reds on Monday night.
Kris Bubic (2 GS, 11.0 IP, 30.2 K%, 2.3 BB%, 55.6 GB%, 1.64 ERA, 1.59 FIP)
While Elder has been arguably the Braves’ biggest surprise, lefty Kris Bubic has fit that description for Kansas City. Bubic allowed two runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his first start and then blanked the Giants over six innings while allowing just two hits in his second. He has 13 strikeouts against just one walk through his first 11 innings.
To date, Bubic has been an underwhelming fifth starter type (112 ERA-, 117 FIP-, 107 xFIP- over 320 career innings dating back to 2020), but he’s throwing harder than he has before while also de-emphasizing his four-seamer, and it’s paying dividends so far. The real improvement has probably been command, as Bubic really suffered from nonsensical locations for his pitches previously, but seems to be more effectively throwing a harder four-seamer up in the zone while not missing badly with the secondaries so far. The Braves might want to sit on that changeup and curve and pound them when they would fall for strikes in this one.
Sunday, April 16, 2:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Kyle Wright (1 GS, 3.0 IP, 15.8 K%, 21.1 BB%, 70.0 GB%, 12.00 ERA, 7.41 FIP)
Kyle Wright’s season debut certainly didn’t go as he was hoping, but he will be looking to bounce back in the series finale on Sunday. Wright made his first start of the season Tuesday against the Reds and it started out fine enough, but he ran into major trouble in the third inning. He allowed four hits, four walks and four runs in those three innings and also hit two batters while throwing 75 pitches.
Zack Greinke (3 GS, 16.1 IP, 15.7 K%, 4.3 BB%, 39.3 GB%, 3.31 ERA, 4.20 FIP)
Veteran Zach Greinke will make his fourth start in Sunday’s series finale. After allowing three runs over his first 11 1/3 innings, Greinke allowed six hits and four runs (three earned), including a pair of home runs, last time out against the Rangers. He has faced the Braves 11 times in his career and has a 2.75 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 2.61 xFIP in 72 innings. This will be the first time he has faced Atlanta since the 2019 season.