The Atlanta Braves will be back in action Tuesday when they begin a brief two-game series against the Boston Red Sox. Atlanta began its homestand by taking two of three from the Baltimore Orioles to improve to 24-11 on the season. Atlanta has opened up a seven-game lead over the Miami Marlins and New York Mets in the NL East standings.
Slowly but surely, the Braves are starting to get healthy. Michael Harris II returned from a two-game absence after jamming his knee in Miami. He delivered a walk-off double in the 12th inning Sunday to give the Braves a 3-2 win, and had a barreled out to the wall earlier in the game. Atlanta reinstated catcher Travis d’Arnaud from the 7-day Concussion Injured List on Monday. d’Arnaud has been out since suffering a concussion in a collision at home plate on April 8 against the San Diego Padres.
Still, there are some challenges on the injury front remaining, and perhaps new ones on the horizon. Atlanta hasn’t announced its starter for Wednesday’s game in what would normally be Max Fried’s spot. It is unclear at this time whether Fried is dealing with a physical ailment or if the team is just considering giving him a couple of extra days of rest.
After a slow start to the season, the Red Sox will come to town playing good baseball. They saw an eight-game winning streak come to an end Sunday with a loss in Philadelphia. Boston is currently 21-15 and in fourth place in the powerhouse AL East, which is fronted by the best-in-baseball Rays and where every team has more wins than losses.
An offensive surge has helped the Red Sox climb above .500. Entering play Monday, Boston is third in the majors in runs scored, trailing only the Rays and the Rangers. Their 114 wRC+ ranks fourth behind the Rays, Rangers and Braves. They’re outhitting their xwOBA as a team, but not by an egregious amount, and are seventh in MLB in that regard. (The Braves continue to underhit their xwOBA, same as it ever was.) While their pitching staff has performed well during their streak, their overall numbers are not good. Boston’s pitching staff ranks 24th in fWAR and is 23rd with a 4.84 ERA. The bullpen has been better than the rotation, but more average than good.
Masataka Yoshida has hit safely in 16-straight games and is 12-for-25 with two doubles and two home runs since May 1. Alex Verdugo is having a nice bounce back season and leads the team with 1.3 fWAR.
Former Braves closer Kenley Jansen has allowed just one run all season and has 16 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. He has eight saves this season and 399 for his career. Jansen is vying to become just the seventh player in major league history with at least 400 career saves.
Tuesday, May 9, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, TBS)
Nick Pivetta (6 GS, 30.2 IP, 25.4 K%, 9.0 BB%, 32.9 GB%, 4.99 ERA, 5.47 FIP)
Former Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for the Red Sox in Tuesday’s series opener. Pivetta’s season has been a bit of a mixed bag to date. He allowed one earned run over his first two starts (10 innings), but has allowed 16 runs over his last 20 2/3 innings. He’s allowed a ton of homers: seven in six starts, with two multi-homer games and only one zero-homer game. He and the Red Sox probably hope that the HR/FB comes downPivetta relies on a fastball, curveball, slider combination. Opponents have a .590 slugging percentage against the fastball along with a .421 xwOBA, which is largely due to it not being thrown high enough to take advantage of its good shape. If Pivetta keeps missing lower in the zone, it could be a problem for him, but he has the stuff to recover.
Charlie Morton (6 GS, 34.2 IP, 20.8 K%, 9.7 BB%, 50.0 GB%, 3.38 ERA, 4.10 FIP)
Charlie Morton will be operating with seven full days of rest when he gets the ball in Tuesday’s opener. He allowed six hits and four runs over 5 1/3 innings in the second game of a doubleheader in New York. He could have pitched Sunday’s series finale against Baltimore, but the Braves elected to go with Bryce Elder and push Morton back to Tuesday. The four runs Morton allowed to the Mets were a season-high. He has logged at least 5 1/3 innings in five of his six starts this season. Morton is throwing his curveball around 45% of the time and opponents have just a .209 wOBA against it. While the velocity on his four-seamer and sinker are still good, he has given up a lot more hard contact on those two pitches.
Morton appears to have reined in a lot of the homer issues that gave him and fans whiplash last year. However, his effectiveness against lefties has really cratered, along with an overall collapse of his strikeout rate, in the early going. Maybe he can improve on those things as time goes on, but right now he appears to have transitioned to a guy with good stuff that was unlucky on fly balls last year, to a backend starter that struggles without the platoon advantage.
Wednesday, May 10, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, MLB Network)
Brayan Bello (4 GS, 17.1 IP, 23.2 K%, 7.3 BB%, 56.4 GB%, 5.71 ERA, 5.37 FIP)
Young right-hander Brayan Bello will get the start in Wednesday’s series finale. Bello made 13 appearances (11 starts) in 2022 and rejoined Boston’s rotation on April 17 after one start at Triple-A. He allowed four runs (two earned) over five innings in his last start against the Blue Jays. Bello has a solid four pitch mix, but relies on his changeup to put hitters away. Bello throws his slider almost 23% of the time even though opponents are hitting .583 with a 1.167 slugging percentage against the pitch. To be fair, they’re hitting well against everything right now, and Bello might need to mix up his pitch sequences, because he’s getting crushed despite a great grounder rate and good command of his main offering. He has a strange small-sample 124 FIP-/84 xFIP- line right now, because he’s allowed four homers in 14 total fly balls across four starts.
The Braves have not announced a starter for Wednesday in what would be Max Fried’s normal turn in the rotation. There is a chance that the Braves could use Thursday’s off day as a means to give Fried a couple of extra days of rest, but Brian Snitker wouldn’t commit to Fried starting Friday either when questioned by reporters. It is unclear if Fried is dealing with anything physical although he is coming off his worst outing of the season where he allowed seven runs (five earned) in six innings against the Orioles.
Dylan Dodd made a spot start in Miami last Thursday, but was optioned back to Gwinnett after the game. He could only return with a corresponding IL move. Jared Shuster started for Gwinnett last Friday and would be on regular rest. A bullpen game would also seem like an option with Thursday’s off day.