After completing a 6-5 road trip, the Atlanta Braves will be right back at it on Monday when they begin a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Truist Park. Atlanta just completed a 11-game, 10-day road trip with a 6-5 record. They dropped two of three at Wrigley Field and then split a four-game series in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Atlanta wrapped up the trip by taking three of four from the Mets at Citi Field. The Braves are 75-42 and currently hold an 11-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East standings. They have a 2.5-game lead over the Orioles for the best record in MLB, and a four-game lead over the Dodgers for the first playoff seed in the National League.
Atlanta flexed its muscles over the weekend, outscoring the Mets 40-10. They slugged 10 home runs over the four games, including three by Matt Olson, who leads the majors with 43 home runs and 107 RBI. Austin Riley homered twice, as did Ozzie Albies, who is second in the majors behind Olson with 90 RBI. Albies, who has started every game this season, left Sunday’s loss in the eighth inning with cramping in his hamstring. The injury isn’t thought to be serious and he is expected to be back in the lineup Monday.
The Yankees come into the series with a 60-58 record and are in last place in the AL East. They have lost six of 10 and dropped two of three to the Marlins in Miami over the weekend, including an implosion on Sunday where they entered the ninth with a 7-3 lead, but ultimately lost 8-7. New York comes into the series 19th in wRC+ and 16th in position player fWAR. Aaron Judge has been as good as expected, but has played in just 63 games due to injury. He’s back in the lineup and has hit safely in five of his last six games. Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson are both on the Injured List, as is high priced offseason acquisition Carlos Rodon. Pitching-wise, the Yankees are 24th in fWAR, with a bottom-five rotation that hasn’t really had any production behind Gerrit Cole and semi-breakout guy Clarke Schmidt.
Monday, August 14, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Clarke Schmidt (24 G, 23 GS, 115.0 IP, 22.2 K%, 6.3 BB%, 4.23 ERA, 4.32 FIP)
Right-hander Clarke Schmidt will get the start for the Yankees in Monday’s opener. Schmidt has proven to be a consistent rotation option for New York in 2023 after working primarily as a relief option for the past three years. He allowed just one run and struck out seven over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the White Sox. Schmidt has allowed three runs or less in 15 straight appearances. He doesn’t walk many and will give up homers a fair bit, but generally keeps opposing offenses down. This will be his first career appearance against Atlanta.
Max Fried (7 GS, 36.0 IP, 25.9 K%, 4.9 BB%, 2.50 ERA, 2.60 FIP)
Max Fried will make his third start, and first at Truist Park, since returning from the Injured List in the series opener. Fried was dominant in his first start, back tossing six shutout innings against the Cubs. His next start was more of a struggle as the Pirates ran up his pitch count and chased him after six hits and four runs in four innings. Fried had a more-than-fine 4/1 K/BB ratio and 63 percent grounder rate against the Pirates, the problem was just that defense and grounder placement all combined to doom him in a single inning. That probably won’t happen again, but you never know.
Tuesday, August 15, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, TBS)
Luis Severino (14 G, 13 GS, 63.2 IP, 18.0 K%, 9.0 BB%, 8.06 ERA, 6.64 FIP)
The Yankees will go with righty Luis Severino in Tuesday’s game. New York came into the season hoping that Severino could reestablish himself as a top rotation option, or at least something passable. However, things couldn’t have gone much worse, and he’s a big reason the Yankees have huge rotation problems. Severino’s 8.06 ERA is the second-highest ERA for a starter that has thrown at least 60 innings, trailing only Adam Wainwright. Severino’s last start was on August 4, where he allowed five runs in just four innings against the Astros. He made a two-inning relief appearance on August 9 and allowed four more runs in just two innings against the White Sox.
After three injury-plagued years, Severino’s return to consistent action in 2022 saw him pitch like an innings-eater rather than the dominant All-Star-level talent he was in 2017-2018. However, his 2023 has just been a nightmare, with diminished shape on his four-seamer and cutter, and horrible performance for every pitch across the board. The issues don’t seem entirely related to any one aspect of his pitching, which might explain why they’ve been so difficult to fix.
Bryce Elder (23 GS, 131.0 IP, 17.7 K%, 7.7 BB%, 3.64 ERA, 4.29 FIP)
Bryce Elder was the feel-good story for the Braves through the early part of the season and filled in more than admirably as they tried to fill the gap left after Max Fried and Kyle Wright went down with injuries. In his last eight starts, though, things have really fallen apart for him, as he’s basically rolled out clunker after clunker. Some of those issues have been related to the team’s defense behind him, but he’s also struggled with slider command and not walking the ballpark at times. He was tagged for six hits and five runs over five innings in his last start in Pittsburgh. That start was in some ways an improvement over his recent struggles (5/2 K/BB ratio), but also featured one of his lowest grounder rates of the year.
Wednesday, August 16, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Randy Vasquez (4 G, 3 GS, 19.0 IP, 15.0 K%, 10.0 BB%, 1.89 ERA, 5.11 FIP)
20-year-old Randy Vasquez is expected to get the start for the Yankees in Wednesday’s series finale. Vasquez is New York’s No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America and will be making his fifth appearance of the season. He made his major league debut in May and has had one appearance each month since. He followed an opener on August 11 in Miami and allowed three hits and two runs over 3 2/3 innings.
Vasquez has had a weird career so far — he’s only been charged with four runs in 19 innings despite a 12/8 K/BB ratio. He’s currently rocking a 94 percent strand rate, which you can try to explain by virtue of the fact that he’s a full-on junkballer with six different pitches, but it’s going to catch up to him eventually.
Charlie Morton (23 GS, 128.2 IP, 23.9 K%, 11.4 BB%, 3.71 ERA, 4.17 FIP)
Charlie Morton will be looking to get back on track in Wednesday’s finale, as he has been for a while now. Morton struggled with his control in his last start, where he issued a career-high seven walks against the Mets. Despite being in trouble in essentially every inning, he allowed just three hits and no runs over five innings. Morton has 11 walks and just eight strikeouts in his last 9 1/3 innings. He has issued at least three walks in five straight starts. Morton’s strategy to attempt to avoid leaning on his inconsistent four-seamer against the Mets was to throw more changeups, but they mostly landed below the zone and thus were as easy to wait out as his other pitches. We’ll see if he changes strategies against the Yankees.