After arguably their worst series of the season, the Atlanta Braves will be looking to get back on track Monday when they continue their road trip with a three-game series against the Texas Rangers. The Braves have lost four straight games, including a three-game sweep in Toronto to the Blue Jays.
The Braves will enter Monday’s series with a 25-15 record and a five-game lead in the NL East standings. They aren’t without concerns though. Both Max Fried and Kyle Wright are out with injuries and expected to miss a substantial chunk of the season. That has put a strain on a pitching staff that has used bullpen games twice in the last five days. The offense hasn’t been clicking at the same rate as earlier in the season and the series in Toronto may have been their worst series defensively in some time, though the defense has been a problem all season.
As the saying goes, the good thing about baseball is that there is (almost) always another game to play, and the Braves will need to put their recent struggles out of their mind as they get ready to face the AL West-leading Rangers.
Texas comes into the series with the same record as the Braves at 25-15, and a four-game lead in the AL West standings. (That’s tied for the second-biggest division lead in baseball; the Braves’ five-game lead is the biggest through Sunday’s games.) They have won two straight and just finished taking three of four in Oakland. Texas entered play Sunday second in the league in runs scored and position player fWAR behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Their pitching staff ranks seventh in fWAR and ERA. That total has been accrued mostly without Jacob deGrom, who hasn’t pitched since April 28 and remains on the Injured List with elbow inflammation.
As of this writing, the Rangers haven’t officially announced their pitching plans for the series. Below is how things will line up if they stay on turn.
Monday, May 15, 8:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Charlie Morton (7 GS, 40.2 IP, 21.9 K%, 9.6 BB%, 50.4 GB%, 3.32 ERA, 4.05 FIP)
Charlie Morton will be operating with an extra day of rest after the Braves opted to push his next start back to Monday’s series opener. Morton got off to a bit of an uneven start, but has pitched better of late. He allowed five hits, two runs and struck out seven over six innings in his last start against the Red Sox.
Dane Dunning (10 G, 2 GS, 31.1 IP, 15.8 K%, 5.8 BB%, 48.9 GB%, 1.72 ERA, 2.94 FIP)
Dane Dunning began the season in the Rangers’ bullpen, but shifted back to the rotation at the start of May. He has pitched well, allowing a combined eight hits and two runs over 11 innings in two starts against the Angels and the Mariners. Dunning faced the Braves one time last season and was lights out, allowing four hits and one run in 7 2/3 innings.
Tuesday, May 16, 8:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
The Braves haven’t announced their plans for Tuesday’s game yet. While another bullpen game is certainly possible, it seems a bit unlikely given that they have already gone with one twice in their last five games. They won’t have the benefit of an off day coming in, but they do have another on the schedule for Thursday. Dylan Dodd pitched Sunday for Gwinnett and isn’t an option for Tuesday. Jared Shuster last pitched on May 10 and would have an extra day of rest. Michael Soroka pitched May 11 and would be on normal rest, but it doesn’t sound like the Braves are ready yet to push Soroka to the majors.
Nathan Eovaldi (8 GS, 53.1 IP, 27.2 K%, 3.9 BB%, 52.1 GB%, 2.70 ERA, 1.94 FIP)
Nathan Eovaldi is lined up to start the second game of the series on Tuesday. Eovaldi is pitching as well as anyone in the majors at the moment and is looking like one of the best additions of the offseason. He will carry a 28 2/3-inning scoreless streak into his next start. He held the Athletics to just three hits and struck out a season-high 12 in 8 2/3 innings in his last outing. Eovaldi has a 2.82 ERA in 92 2/3 innings in his career against the Braves. Because of Eovaldi and the Braves not having a starter for this game, it looks like a huge mismatch on paper.
Wednesday, May 17 8:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Spencer Strider (8 GS, 46.2 IP, 42.9 K%, 8.2 BB%, 32.2 GB%, 2.51 ERA, 1.62 FIP)
Spencer Strider is lined up for the finale Wednesday. Strider has gotten off to a dominant start and is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the league. He has been a strikeout machine, totaling 79 over his first 46 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out 12 over 6 2/3 innings in his last start against the Blue Jays.
Martin Perez (8 GS, 42.1 IP, 16.4 K%, 7.4 BB%, 40.8 GB%, 4.25 ERA, 5.27 FIP)
Left-hander Martin Perez is in line to start the finale opposite Strider. Perez got off to a good start, but has struggled of late. He allowed eight hits and four runs over five innings in his last start in Oakland. He’s allowed 16 hits and 11 runs through two starts in May. Perez has seen his strikeout rate evaporate this year and has also been homer-prone, which is a tough combination to stomach. He and Jon Gray, whom the Braves will miss in this series, have been weak links in what has been an awesome pitching staff performance so far.