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Braves return home to face AL Central-leading Twins

Atlanta just completed a 4-1 road trip with series wins over the Phillies and the Reds.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Fresh off of a 4-1 road trip, the Atlanta Braves will return to Truist Park on Monday, where they will begin a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. The Braves won both games in a rain-shortened series in Philadelphia and then took two of three from the streaking Cincinnati Reds, snapping both the Braves’ eight-game winning streak and then the Reds’ 12-game winning streak in the process.

Atlanta is currently a season-best 23 games over .500 at 50-27. They hold a six game advantage over the Miami Marlins and are 10 games up on the Phillies.

The Braves scored 33 runs on their road trip and are third in the majors in runs scored. They lead the majors with 139 home runs, which is now 16 more than second-place Tampa Bay, after the latter’s lead seemed gigantic earlier in the year. Matt Olson did his part to add to that total with four homers in the three games in Cincinnati. He is now tied with Shohei Ohtani for the major league lead with 25. Ronald Acuña Jr. had two hits in Sunday’s game and stole his 35th base of the season. His 35 stolen bases lead the National League by a wide margin and he trails only Oakland’s Esteury Ruiz, who leads the majors with 39.

Sean Murphy returned to the lineup Sunday for the first time since tweaking his hamstring last Sunday against the Colorado Rockies. Murphy picked right up where he left off with two hits in Sunday’s win.

Over the weekend, the Twins began a nine-game road trip by taking two of three in Detroit. They will enter Monday’s game with a 40-39 record and a two-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians for the AL Central lead. Minnesota’s pitching staff currently leads the majors in fWAR and with an 3.63 FIP. They are currently ranked third in the majors with a 3.67 ERA and are second with 739 strikeouts.

However, the Twins have struggled offensively and are tied for 17th in runs scored despite being seventh in home runs. No longer the Bomba Squad of years past, these Twins are still adept at barreling the ball, but don’t hit it quite so hard all the time anymore. Carlos Correa has gotten off to a slow start at the plate hitting just .216/.293/.413 with a 94 wRC+. Byron Buxton is hitting just .206/.404/.440, but has 13 home runs and has worked exclusively as a DH this season.

Monday, June 26, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, MLB Network)

Sonny Gray (15 GS, 81.0 IP, 24.6 K%, 9.4 BB%, 46.8 GB%, 2.56 ERA, 2.70 FIP)

Veteran right-hander Sonny Gray will get the nod for the Twins in the opener. Gray has put together a more-than-solid season to date with a 2.56 ERA and a 2.70 FIP in 81 innings. He’s sixth in MLB among pitchers (but second on his own team) with 2.5 fWAR to date. He allowed three runs and struck out five over five innings in his last start against the Red Sox. Gray has a 3.23 ERA in five career starts against the Braves to go along with 33 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings, but hasn’t faced them since 2021 when he was a member of the Reds.

Spencer Strider (15 GS, 84.2 IP, 39.0 K%, 8.6 BB%, 30.7 GB%, 3.93 ERA, 3.10 FIP)

Spencer Strider will get the start opposite Gray in Monday’s series opener. Strider delivered a bounceback start in his last outing holding the Phillies to one run to go along with nine strikeouts in six innings. That snapped a two-game stretch where he had allowed 13 runs in just nine innings. The velocity on Strider’s fastball ticked up in Philadelphia as did his command of his slider. Strider’s current 2.0 fWAR took a bit of a beating as he allowed homer and homer after earlier this month, but still ranks 15th in MLB.

Tuesday, June 27, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, TBS)

Joe Ryan (15 GS, 93.2 IP, 27.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 34.0 GB%, 2.98 ERA, 2.79 FIP)

Righty Joe Ryan will start Tuesday’s game for the Twins. Ryan bounced back from a rough start where he allowed six runs in seven innings against the Tigers by allowing three hits and striking out nine in a complete game shutout against the Red Sox. Tuesday will be Ryan’s first career game against Atlanta. Though not exactly a household name despite a solid season in 2022, Ryan is actually fifth in MLB with 2.9 pitching fWAR.

Bryce Elder (15 GS, 90.0 IP, 20.8K%, 6.7 BB%, 57.1 GB%, 2.40 ERA, 3.73 FIP)

Bryce Elder will make his 16th start of the season for the Braves in Tuesday’s game. After allowing nine runs combined in two starts to begin June, Elder has quickly regained his form. He allowed four hits and one run over six innings in a win over the Rockies and then followed that up with an impressive performance in Philadelphia where he allowed just three hits over seven scoreless innings. His 2.40 ERA currently leads the National League, and he’s still been around a top-50 starter in terms of things he can control, as well.

Wednesday, June 28, 12:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, MLB Network)

Kenta Maeda (5 GS, 21.0 IP, 23.9 K%, 5.4 BB%, 28.6 GB%, 6.86 ERA, 3.75 FIP)

Veteran Kenta Maeda will make just his sixth start of the season in Wednesday’s series finale, as he missed two months of the season with a triceps strain. Wednesday will be his second start since returning from the Injured List. He was good in that first outing back, tossing five scoreless innings while recording eight strikeouts against the Tigers. Maeda has three career starts against the Braves where he has allowed four runs in 18 innings, though he hasn’t faced Atlanta since 2019 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

AJ Smith-Shawver (4 G, 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 21.7 K%, 8.7 BB%, 34.0 GB%, 4.32 ERA, 6.63 FIP)

AJ Smith-Shawver will make his fourth start of his career in the finale Wednesday. Smith-Shawver was knocked around in his last start in Cincinnati where he allowed five runs in just 3 1/3 innings. He allowed four hits, and three of those left the ballpark. All five of the home runs that Smith-Shawver has allowed this season have come in his last nine innings.

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