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Elder set to take on familiar foes as Braves take aim at Alcantara

Can Elder do it again to the Marlins? And what is going on with Sandy Alcantara?

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images

Bryce Elder’s 2022 season saw him make some poor early starts, wash out of the rotation, and then come back with a vengeance for the stretch run. As fate and/or the Braves’ design would have it, Elder’s rotation turns in the latter half of the year had a heavy seafood motif: three of his five starts came against the Marlins. When you add an earlier, far-less-successful start against Miami from April 2022, you get the fact that Elder has faced the Marlins for four of his 13 career starts to date. After tonight’s game, it’ll be five of 14 career starts.

That said, one can hardly be dejected about Elder facing this lineup, for a multitude of reasons. First, Braves starters have dominated Marlins bats through the first two games of this series, with Spencer Strider having a near-legendary night on Monday, and Charlie Morton having his best start of the young season on Tuesday. Second, Elder has been great to start the year, even against non-Marlins opponents: he has an amusing 26 ERA-, 58 FIP-, 81 xFIP- line, is currently 18th among starters with 20+ innings pitched on the season with 0.8 fWAR, and is 24th in xFIP-. Third, well, Elder really did dominate the Marlins last year. Even if you include his poor start against them in April, he put together a 3.07 FIP and 3.74 xFIP against them in 22 23 innings (or 2.50 FIP / 3.01 xFIP if you exclude the April start). So, however you cut it, if Elder gives the Braves more of the same, there shouldn’t be too many worries on the pitching end of this game in the early and middle innings.

On the flip side, facing off against Elder tonight will be none other than Miami ace Sandy Alcantara, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner... who has had a start no one really expected to his 2023 season.

On Opening Day, Alcantara faced the Mets and had a very uncharacteristic 2/4 K/BB ratio while lasting an uncharacteristic 5 23 innings. He followed that up with a more-much-expected complete game shutout of the Twins (5/1 K/BB ratio), but then was crushed by the Phillies in very BABIP-y fashion: four innings, nine runs, and just a single homer despite a 4/1 K/BB ratio. His most recent outing, which came ten days ago, was also kind of strange: five runs (three earned) in six innings, with a homer allowed, but a 9/0 K/BB ratio.

Alcantara’s no stranger to rough starts — the Braves crushed him in September last year after he dominated them twice earlier in the season — but it’s nonetheless been a curious start for him. He is really struggling with his sinker and changeup command, and seems to be much more fastball-heavy than last year. The result of the bad command seems to be that hitters are lifting both the sinker and changeup where they’d previously run them into the ground, and also that there are just notably fewer pitches in the zone, and chases, than his fantastic prior campaign. That said, he’s still running an 81 FIP- and 93 xFIP- on the year, so there’s no reason to figure Alcantara is completely broken and can be taken lightly.

After a four-game skid, winning two in a row has once again put the Braves in the NL’s top spot and the second-best record in MLB overall, and they’ll see if they can throw another W together tonight.

Game Info

Miami Marlins @ Atlanta Braves

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

7:20 pm EDT

Truist Park, Atlanta, GA

TV: Bankruptcy Sports South

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan

XM Radio: Ch. 178

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