Fresh off of a series win over the Seattle Mariners, the Atlanta Braves will continue their homestand Monday when they begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves took two of three from Seattle, including a 3-2 win on Sunday that featured a fine pitching performance by rookie Jared Shuster.
Atlanta will enter the series Monday with a 29-17 record and a 5.0 game lead over the Miami Marlins in the NL East that seems likely to stretch to 5.5 games at the time of writing. The Braves are in the middle of a difficult stretch of games, but have thus far been able to maintain a comfortable lead in the division. Atlanta is currently dealing with injuries to Max Fried and Kyle Wright and have leaned heavily on their relievers for three bullpen games over the last week and a half.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has put together an MVP-caliber start to the season and will carry an 11-game hitting streak into Monday’s opener. Matt Olson had another first-inning double in Sunday’s game and is 7-for-18 with three doubles and two homers over his last five games.
The Dodgers come into the series with their own rotation issues. Los Angeles has lost Dustin May to a forearm strain and Julio Urias to a strained hamstring over the past week. The Dodgers are 29-19, but have lost two straight games, including a 10-5 defeat in St. Louis on Sunday. They are clinging to a two-game lead in the division and maybe overperforming their production a tiny bit (WAR-wins suggests a 28-20 record), but make no mistake: injuries and all, this is a dangerous team that does most things pretty well (other than fielding, which makes them pretty similar to the Braves in that regard).
This series will mark the return of a couple of familiar faces for Braves’ fans. Freddie Freeman returns to Atlanta for just the second time since signing with the Dodgers prior to last season. He’s unsurprisingly off to a good start at the plate hitting hitting .321/.394/.547 with 17 doubles and eight home runs over the first 48 games. Former Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is in his first season with Los Angeles. Heyward has appeared in 36 games, mostly as a reserve outfielder and has a .770 OPS with seven doubles and four home runs.
In addition to Freeman, the usual suspects of Mookie Betts, Will Smith, and Max Muncy have pushed the Dodgers to the top of the NL West so far. A less familiar, but no less impactful, name is James Outman, who has 1.5 fWAR and positive defensive value this season... but he is outhitting his xwOBA by a ton.
Pitching-wise, the Dodgers have been led by Clayton Kershaw, who pitched on Sunday, and Dustin May, who is now on the shelf, plus a stable of good relief performances so far. They’ve had a few relief arms struggle thus far, but those meltdowns have generally come at unimportant times.
All-in-all, this should be another tough series for the Braves, but it’s one where the pitching matchups are relatively favorable for the home team.
Monday, May 22, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Gavin Stone (1 GS, 4 IP, 4.3 K%, 8.7 BB%, 42.1 GB% 9.00 ERA, 4.30 FIP)
Right-hander Gavin Stone will make his second career start in Monday’s series opener, replacing the injured Dustin May. Stone is the Dodgers’ sixth-best prospect according to Baseball America. He made his major league debut on May 3 against the Phillies where he allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned) in four innings. Stone has a 4.04 ERA and a 5.11 FIP to go along with a 27.5 percent strikeout rate in eight starts at Triple-A.
Charlie Morton (8 GS, 47.1 IP, 23.8 K%, 8.7 BB%, 49.3 GB%, 2.85 ERA, 3.60 FIP)
The Braves’ pushed Morton back to Monday’s start which will give him six full days of rest. After an up-and-down start to the season, Morton has been on a roll, striking out 17 hitters over his last 12 2/3 innings. He struck out a season-high 10 and held the Rangers scoreless for 6 2/3 innings in his last start. Morton has held the opposition to three runs or less in seven of his eight starts this season, but he’s also walked multiple batters in all but one start this season.
Tuesday, May 23, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, TBS)
Bobby Miller (Triple-A: 4 GS, 14.1 IP, 19.7 K%, 9.8 BB%, 40.0 GB%, 5.65 ERA, 5.59 FIP)
Tuesday’s start would have gone to Julio Urias, but he too was recently shelved. As a result, the Dodgers are expected to call up right-hander Bobby Miller to make his major league debut. Miller is the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America. Miller didn’t pitch at all during Spring Training, while dealing with soreness in his throwing shoulder. He has made four starts at Triple-A where he has a 5.65 ERA and a 5.59 FIP in 14 1/3 innings. However, Miller is coming off his best outing of the season where he allowed six hits, one run and struck out six over six innings against Sugar Land.
Spencer Strider (9 GS, 51.2 IP, 41.5 K%, 8.7 BB%, 33.0 GB%, 2.96 ERA, 2.20 FIP)
Spencer Strider will make his tenth start of the season in Tuesday’s game. Strider wasn’t sharp in his last outing, allowing six hits and four runs. He walked three, but still managed to strike out seven. It was the first start of the season where he failed to record at least eight strikeouts, and the first start of his career where he allowed multiple homers — but somehow the Braves still won. Tuesday will be Strider’s second career start against Los Angeles. He faced them once last season and struck out seven over six scoreless innings.
Wednesday, May 24, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, MLB Network)
Tony Gonsolin (5 GS, 24.0 IP, 20.0 K%, 9.5 BB%, 39.4 GB%, 1.13 ERA, 4.05 FIP)
Right-hander Tony Gonsolin will start Wednesday’s finale for the Dodgers. Gonsolin began the season on the Injured List, but made his season debut at the end of April. He has had good results, hence his 1.13 ERA attests, but his 4.05 FIP suggests he has been very fortunate, and his xFIP is even worse, with a K%-BB% under 10 percent. Gonsolin has allowed just six hits and no earned runs over his last three starts (16 innings). He has made three starts in his career against Atlanta, allowing two runs over 15 2/3 innings.
Bryce Elder (9 GS, 52.1 IP, 21.3 K%, 7.1 BB%, 56.1 GB%, 2.06 ERA, 3.36 FIP)
In many ways, Bryce Elder has been the unsung hero of the Braves rotation over the first quarter of the season. Elder began the season at Gwinnett, but quickly solidified his position in the team’s rotation with 12 1/3 scoreless innings over his first two starts. He’s maintained that success and given Atlanta a chance to win just about every time he has been on the mound. He allowed seven hits and two runs over six innings in his last start against the Mariners. Elder has allowed just five runs through his first four starts in May (23 1/3 innings).