For the second time in two Thursdays, the Braves will play an afternoon game seeking a sweep of the Marlins. Last time, the attempt ended in a minor manifestation of agony, as the Braves suffered a five-run ninth after leading 4-0 for most of the game and ended up losing in improbable fashion. This time, well, things will probably be different.
With the Braves choosing to push Max Fried back a day, they’ve called up Dylan Dodd to take the start in this one. Dodd’s had an adventure of a 2023 so far. To recap: he was great in Spring Training, and then showed pinpoint command while eviscerating the Cardinals (5 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K) in his major league debut. He was way less great his next time out, as a combination of beyond-disheveled command and something akin to tipping his pitches led to a brutalization at the hands of the Padres (two homers, 3/1 K/BB ratio in 4 1⁄3 innings). Since then, he’s made three starts in Triple-A, where he really hasn’t been impressive: 4.72 FIP, 4.30 xFIP. So, all in all, this is less a deserved call-up and more of a battlefield promotion.
With that said, Dodd clearly has a path to success — not just against the Marlins, but in general. If he can show the type of command he did against the Cardinals, he’s immediately a major league fixture, because he was plinking the corners with impunity. Even if he can’t, decent command and a really confusing slider-thing should probably be fine, so long as he isn’t telegraphing when it’s coming. Of course, having decent command is far easier said than done, even if you’re a relatively soft thrower like Dodd. On the flip side, the Marlins are 22nd in team wRC+ (89) and 25th in xwOBA coming into this game, so Dodd isn’t exactly being thrown to the wolves (fish?) here.
After Braxton Garrett was obliterated but also forced to stay in the game by his management last night, the Marlins will send Jesus Luzardo to the hill on Thursday afternoon. Luzardo is having a strong year through six starts so far: 82 ERA-, 86 FIP-, 93 xFIP-, and an xwOBA/xERA pretty close to his FIP. He’s only had a couple of bad starts so far, and hasn’t walked more than a couple of batters since his first outing. He throws hard and gets a lot of horizontal movement on his four-seamer, while pairing it with a gyro-slider-cutter-thing. One thing that’s interesting about Luzardo so far is that his four-seamer has been thrown low in the zone and often ineffectually elevated. Usually hard throwers that get lots of pop-ups do so by throwing at the top of the zone, but Luzardo has seemingly benefited from missing the barrel with his horizontal movement when batters try to uppercut his offerings. He is allowing an elevated barrel rate, but not much in-between contact, which could either work out great or poorly for the Braves depending on their HR/FB fortunes.
Luzardo faced the Braves twice last year. In August, in the famed Trompical Storm game, the Braves’ awesomely-named catcher had three hits, including two off Luzardo, in a 5-2, easy-enough win. But, with the Braves looking to clinch the division in October, Luzardo dominated them with 12 strikeouts and a single walk in six scoreless innings, as the Braves fell 4-0. The Braves also crushed him in a 2021 start.
Anyway, the Braves are rolling, and they’ve essentially had no problem with the Marlins aside from one inning so far this season, so we’ll see what happens.
Thursday, May 4, 2023
4:10 pm ET
loanDepot park (can we call it Stupid Capitalization Park?)
TV: Bankruptcy Sports South, MLB Network
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online/Ch. 184