After pulling ahead late in order to topple the Minnesota Twins in their series opener, the Atlanta Braves now have an opportunity to take a series from the current AL Central leaders, as the two teams square off in the middle game of their three-game series.
As far as pitching matchups go, we’ve got a good one in store for tonight’s contest. The Twins are sending Joe Ryan to the mound and he’s been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball according to fWAR (2.8 so far, good for third best in the American League among qualified starters). He’s entering this game with an ERA of 2.98, a FIP of 2.78, an ERA- of 72 and a FIP- of 67. While Ryan may not have the most imposing fastball in the world, his stuff is nasty enough to the point where he routinely has hitters chasing after it while also avoiding walks and hard contact.
The Braves may also be catching him in the midst of a heater. Ryan has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his past four appearances and his most recent start was his current magnum opus. Ryan was nearly untouchable against the Red Sox as he struck out nine, only gave up three hits and didn’t walk anybody during an incredibly impressive complete game shutout.
While Joe Ryan is on a very solid run, he has shown that he isn’t exactly an unstoppable pitcher. The Astros proved that back on May 30, when they hit him for five runs over four innings. While Ryan may have pitched seven innings on June 16, the Tigers still got him for six runs and a couple of homers while he was out there. So while this figures to be a tough challenge for Atlanta’s lineup, the Braves have proven that they can figure a way to scrape runs when they need it so this figures to be a challenge that the Braves are going to relish rather than run from.
On the other side of things, Bryce Elder is getting another chance to continue what’s been a very solid season for himself. Elder is also coming into this start on a good run of form, as he’s only given up one run over 13 innings spread over his past two starts. He’s made it into the sixth inning in each of his past seven starts and as long as the wheels don’t fall completely off the wagon for Elder (and there’s no reason to believe it will at this point — we’re in July now and he’s still getting the job done), it’s fair to assume that the Braves will be asking for him to get that deep into the game once again.
This is now the part where I remind you that Bryce Elder currently leads all of Major League Baseball in ERA-, as his ERA- of 54 has him one pint clear of Framber Valdez at the top of the leaderboard. It’s okay to admit that none of us figured that this would be a real possibility heading into this season but it’s definitely been an extremely welcome development to have Elder become a reliable starter in the rotation. Statcast remains spoked by a lot of what Elder has going on with his stuff but at this point, it’s okay to just sit back and enjoy what Elder brings to the table every five days.
Last night’s win for the Braves was hard-fought but it also felt a bit inevitable as well. Atlanta has made a habit out of pulling away from teams late, simply because their lineup is too good to be kept quiet for long. They’ll either blitz you early on or they’ll find a way to score when it’s needed the most. The timely hitting is one of many reasons why the Braves have pushed to the top of the standings in not just the NL East but the entire National League in general.
As long as the Braves can keep that up, there’s really nothing to fear going forward. It may seem like a hubristic thing to say but at the same time, it also makes these games very fun and exciting to watch since you know the Braves always have a good performance in them, whether it’s a quick start or a furious finish. Here’s hoping that we see another great performance from the Braves as they go for a series win against the Twins tonight.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, June 27, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports South, TBS (out-of-market only)
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan