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Kolby Allard gets another turn as Braves go for tenth win in a row

A diminished but possibly resurgent Shane Bieber stands in their way

MLB: JUL 02 Marlins at Braves Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On a day when some people might be losing some digits if they’re not careful, the Braves will look to add a digit to their current nine-game winning streak as they continue their series with the Cleveland Guardians. After a 4-2 win last night behind Bryce Elder, Atlanta will hand the ball to Kolby Allard, hoping for Round Two of the magic he displayed last Wednesday in Atlanta.

When Allard was announced as the starter for Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins, expectations were low, or perhaps nonexistent. After all, the one-time Braves’ first round pick was the holder of a ghastly 139 ERA-, 124 FIP-, and 115 xFIP- across 232 23 career innings, not all of which were starts. Beyond that, he had only made two minor-league starts earlier in the year after being sidelined with an oblique injury from Spring Training-onward.

And yet, he amazed against the Twins — he retired 14 of the 18 batters he faced, eight via strikeout, while walking just one. It was the best start of his career by FIP and xFIP, and one of his best ever by Game Score (v2), which penalized him for only lasting 4 23 innings. While the Twins have been putrid against left-handed pitching, this wasn’t just the result of a favorable matchup, as Allard drifted towards a relatively beneficial pitch mix on the mound, mixing in a lot of cutters and curves. The outing featured the lowest four-seamer rate of his career, and the highest curveball rate of his career; that said, even the four-seamer got a ton of whiffs.

So, the Braves will see if Allard can do it again. The Guardians aren’t a much worse matchup than the Twins — they’re not necessarily worse against lefties, but they just don’t hit well, in general.

On the flip side, what the Guardians do do pretty well is pitch — they held the Braves to just four runs despite three homers last night, which was only the seventh time in their last 28 games that the Braves were held to four runs or fewer. Opposing Allard tonight will be Shane Bieber, who is in the midst of a severely diminished season relative to his own lofty standards, but far from a bad one overall.

Bieber currently has an 82/94/94 line, after coming into 2023 with a career line of 74/70/70. The big change for him is that his strikeout rate has dried up like the Aral Sea; he’s throwing a ton more cutters and it’s not something that’s worked out great for him so far. However, Bieber’s last four starts have been more akin to his track record, including a 30/6 K/BB ratio in 25 13 innings, along with a 75/87/66 line. It’s hard to know how much this reflects him being “back,” though, as the most recent two of those outings came against two weak offenses in the Royals and Brewers.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves @ Cleveland Guardians

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

7:10 pm EDT

Progressive Field

Cleveland, OH

TV: Bankruptcy Sports South

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan

XM Radio: Ch. 177

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