The league’s spotlight will once again shine brightly on Truist Park in Cobb County, as the Boston Red Sox are rolling into town to take on the Atlanta Braves for the start of a two-game mini series.
The main reason why this game is relevant across Major League Baseball is because the two reigning Players of the Week in each respective league will be playing in the same game tonight. NL Player of the Week (and current MLB fWAR leader) Sean Murphy is very likely to get the start at catcher for tonight’s game, even with Travis d’Arnaud making his return from the Concussion IL. Murphy has been excellent both at the plate and behind the plate so far this season — while we all expected him to provide the defensive capability, his hitting has been what’s propelled him to such lofty heights here in the early stages of the season.
Murphy’s battery mate for tonight’s game will be Charlie Morton, who’s gotten off to a decent start to 2023. His last outing wasn’t the best performance in the world, as he gave up four runs over 5.1 innings against the Mets last Monday. It was a bit disappointing after he had his best start of the season against the Marlins in his outing right before the one in New York. Morton hasn’t been spectacular by any means, but ERA- (76) and FIP- (95) seem to think that he’s on the right track, so hopefully that continues as he has a tough task on his hands against this Red Sox offense.
The obvious focus for tonight’s game will be on reigning AL Player of the Week Masataka Yoshida. It appears that Boston’s star acquisition from the Orix Buffaloes has gotten over his adjustment period to Major League Baseball and is starting to mash the ball. Yoshida was extremely potent at the plate this past week, as he put Toronto and Philadelphia through the ringer with his performance with the bat.
The Red Sox will be entering this game with a team wRC+ of 114, which is good for third in the American League behind the Texas Rangers (118) and the Tampa Bay Rays (who are in a tier of their own at 147 wRC+). For reference’s sake, the Braves are leading the National League in team wRC+ with an average of 117. I’d say that the Braves have the edge when it comes to offense but it also wouldn’t be particularly shocking to see Boston swing the bats just as hard as Atlanta tonight.
Meanwhile, Nick Pivetta will be tasked with making sure that the Braves don’t knock around the Red Sox again. Pivetta has basically been average this season — he’s sitting on a perfectly-balanced fWAR of 0.0 over six starts, his ERA- is 109, his FIP- is 126 and he’s given up at least three runs in all but one of those six starts. The only exceptions were when two of those three runs were unearned back on April 4 against the Pirates and when he managed to keep the Rays quiet for five shutout innings back on April 10. That start alone should mean that the Braves have got to take Pivetta very seriously, because keeping Tampa Bay quiet for that long at this point in the season qualifies for an extremely impressive feat.
With that being said, the Braves have had some level of success against Nick Pivetta in the past. Atlanta put three runs on Pivetta’s line last August, which included a home run from Marcell Ozuna. That was the fourth homer that Pivetta had given up to Ozuna in their career matchup, which means that it wouldn’t be shocking if Brian Snitker decided to give Ozuna the start at DH for tonight’s game — especially now that the Dominican DH is actually showing some signs of life at the plate. Austin Riley’s hit two homers off of Pivetta, Orlando Arcia has a homer in two At-Bats against the veteran hurler and Travis d’Arnaud also has a dinger to his name against Pivetta. The Braves have a good enough offense to where they’re not particularly fearful of any pitcher and I doubt that that’ll change against Pivetta this evening.
Atlanta has already managed to send one good AL East team packing with a series loss and they’ll be looking to keep on winning against good AL East teams tonight. The Red Sox are playing some good baseball right now and the fact that they’re in fourth place in that division is less an indictment of their quality and more of an indication that their division is extremely tough and have all gotten off to good starts. They’ve won eight of their past nine games and only had their winning streak broken up by the Phillies back on Sunday. The Braves are going to be trying to continue cooling down this hot Red Sox team and it should be really exciting to see if Atlanta can hold serve against Boston tonight.
Game date/time: Tuesday, May 9, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports South, TBS
Radio: 680 AM/ 93.7 The Fan