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Braves head back home for a four-game series with the Rockies

Braves forced to battle quick turnaround to keep up winning ways against the Rockies

Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Due to a rainout in Detroit on Tuesday, the Braves must endure a quick turnaround: a doubleheader with a late afternoon game, and then a return to Atlanta for a 7:20 p.m. start the next day. Hopefully, the Braves can avoid a travel-related let down on Thursday after their doubleheader sweep, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

The Braves’ offense has been firing on all cylinders lately, averaging 6.5 runs per game over the last 10 games prior to the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Michael Harris II looks to be all the way back after going 7-for-8 with two home runs and a double in the first two games of the series against the Tigers. Harris has raised his OPS by over .100 in the last two games. Getting 2022 Harris back will make an already scary Braves lineup even more frightening.

The Rockies have been battling injuries so far this season, with stalwarts German Marquez, C.J. Cron, Brendan Rodgers, Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon all out with medium-to-long term injuries. However, none of those guys have been great, and some of the replacements have stepped up, so their record is not vastly different than what it was projected to be with those guys. The Rockies will enter play on Wednesday 29-40, good for last place in the NL West. That’s basically the same winning percentage that they were projected to achieve before the season started.

The Rockies have not a ton of standout performers offensively, but Ryan McMahon and Elias Diaz have been their pacesetters as their only position players with an fWAR above 1.0. They have also gotten excellent contributions from Brent Suter, Jake Bird, Justin Lawrence and Brad Hand, who all have an ERA+ above 140. Suter in particular has been fantastic, with a 248 ERA+ which exceptional. Each of that foursome has at least 0.8 fWAR, and the net result is that the Rockies have a top-five bullpen in the league. Unfortunately for them, though, they have one of the league’s worst rotations (29th in MLB in fWAR) and the league’s worst group of position players.

Thursday, June 15, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

AJ Smith-Shawver (2 G, 1 GS, 7.2 IP, 17.9 K%, 10.7 BB%, 45 GB%, 0.00 ERA, 3.15 FIP)

20-year-old AJ Smith-Shawver had a solid start to begin his big league career, going 5 13 IP without giving up an earned run against the Nationals. He only struck out two, but he did a good job avoiding barrels and limiting hard contact. He also struggled consistently locating his breaking balls, which is something to look out for in his start on Thursday. Once again, Smith-Shawver gets a light assignment with the Rockies, who are not a high-powered offense — even their non-park-adjusted hitting line is in the league’s bottom half. It will be interesting to see if Smith-Shawver can make any adjustments from his first start. It is also worth monitoring how many innings and pitches the Braves are willing to let the rookie go.

Kyle Freeland (14 GS, 76 IP, 15.7 K%, 6.1 BB%, 42.1 GB%, 3.91 ERA, 4.79 FIP)

Kyle Freeland has made a nice career for himself as a pitcher who is relatively Coors Field-proof, with a decent 4.62 career ERA and 4.55 FIP in the Mile High City, compared to a 3.85 ERA and 4.44 FIP on the road; he actually has a better xFIP in home for his career. This season, Freeland has been much better in Coors, with a 3.19 ERA at home compared to 4.81 mark on the road, with the FIP and xFIP splits even more dramatic. He does not blow anyone away, with his primary pitch being a sinker that averages 88.5 MPH. He uses guile and an effective pair of breaking balls to put hitters away. Freeland only has a 5.80 K/9, but he is getting the job done for the Rockies. FIP and other ERA estimators suggest that he has been lucky so far this season, with his 4.79 FIP almost a full run higher than his ERA, but despite that he has been a dependable innings eater for the Rockies. He has a 4.75 ERA in six starts against the Braves in his career, but he has gone 36 innings in those starts. That puts him at six innings per start, which is a respectable total.

Friday, June 16, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Jared Shuster (7 GS, 35.2 IP, 13.8 K%, 12.5 BB%, 33 GB%, 5.05 ERA, 4.51 FIP)

Jared Shuster had an interesting start his last time out, going five innings and giving up three runs, while not striking out or walking anybody. That is a highly unusual in modern MLB where the three true outcomes have taken over the game. Over Shuster’s last 10 13 innings, he has only struck out one batter. This shows how hittable his stuff has been in his first stint in the big leagues. Shuster has 21 strikeouts to 19 walks overall, which is not a great ratio at all. He has done a good job avoiding the barrel, ranking in the 72nd percentile in that regard. However, he has not been able to give the Braves length, only going six innings once this season. He should be capable of giving the Braves a solid five innings before turning it over to the bullpen, but the quality of those innings is definitely in question.

Dinelson Lamet (15 G, 3 GS, 21.2 IP, 22.8 K%, 14.9 BB%, 44.3 GB%, 10.38 ERA, 5.17 FIP)

Dinelson Lamet is a shadow of the pitcher that showed so much promise in the shortened 2020 season where he posted a 2.09 ERA and 2.5 fWAR over 69 innings in San Diego. Injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued the right hander since that 2020 season. He still throws hard, averaging 95 MPH on his fastball, and still has a dominant slider that has a 35.3 whiff percentage, but he is simply not the same guy he was before the injuries, as the 10.38 ERA and FIP/xFIP above 5.00 all show. While he has been wildly unlucky with his ERA more than double his FIP, the 5.17 FIP still is not good. Lamet has been great against the Braves in his career, posting a 2.25 ERA and 12.4 K/9 over his 16 innings against them. However those numbers were compiled by a different guy to the one the Braves will see on Friday.

Saturday, June 17, 4:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Bryce Elder (13 GS, 77 IP, 20.8 K%, 7.1 BB%, 55.7 GB%, 2.69 ERA, 3.78 FIP)

The long-awaited Bryce Elder regression looks like it has finally arrived in his last two starts, where he has given up four and five runs, respectively. He gave up five runs in 5 13 innings against the Nationals, while only striking out one batter. Despite the rough last two outings, he still has a 2.69 ERA, which is third in the National League among qualified pitchers. He relies on his 90 MPH sinker to get groundballs and then puts guys away with his devastating slider. In his last seven starts, Elder has posted a 3.51 ERA. If that is the type of production the Braves can expect the rest of the season, they will be happy with that. Just keep him away from the third time through the order, as his numbers go from impressive to untenable pretty quickly in that regard. Elder has never faced the Rockies.

Connor Seabold (8 GS, 53.2 IP, 17.6 K%, 7.5 BB%, 35.3 GB%, 4.70 ERA, 4.75 FIP)

Connor Seabold has been a solid starter for the Rockies since being inserted into the rotation. In his last seven games, which have all been starts, he has posted a respectable 4.37 ERA, with an FIP to match (though his xFIP in that span is way higher). That is especially good for a guy who pitches his home games in Coors Field. None of his pitches really stand out, but he has several average pitches to choose from, and his changeup is an oddball, very slow drifter. He is coming off an excellent start against the Red Sox, the team that traded him to Colorado, where he went six innings while only allowing one run. He also racked up six strikeouts in the process. Seabold has never faced the Braves.

Sunday, June 18, 1:35 p.m ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Charlie Morton (13 GS, 75 IP, 25.7 K%, 10 BB%, 46.6 GB%, 3.60 ERA, 3.84 FIP)

Charlie Morton has been far more than a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter this season, even if he has been frustrating at times. His curveball has been one of the best pitches in baseball, with batters hitting .151 against the pitch; Morton throws nearly half the time. It also generates a 42.3 whiff percentage. Of Morton’s 85 strikeouts, 58 have come on the curveball. He can really spin it, generating an average spin rate of 3,078 RPM, which is one of the best marks in baseball. He uses that alongside a 95 MPH fastball and an occasional solid changeup to get hitters out. His command has been hit or miss this season, but on the whole, Morton has been solid, especially for a 39-year-old. Morton has been decent against the Rockies in his career, posting a 3.89 ERA in 71.2 IP.

Chase Anderson (6 GS, 36.1 IP, 17.4 K%, 5.6 BB%, 37.7 GB%, 2.72 ERA, 4.95 FIP)

Chase Anderson has been passed around the league a lot these days. He has pitched for seven teams in his career, including two this season. He started the year with the Rays, for whom he made two appearances before getting DFA-ed. He was picked up by the Rockies, where he has been weirdly effective despite blah peripherals, with a 3.16 ERA across six starts. His velocity is up a tick and that has led to Anderson having his best season in years. That said, he is coming off a rough start where he failed to get through five innings while allowing three runs, though he did get six strikeouts. Anderson has had success against the Braves, posting a 3.38 ERA over six starts that have made up 32 innings.

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