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Chirinos gets another chance in rubber game against the Angels

Ball-in-play fortune went against Yonny Chirinos in his Braves debut. Will it go better this time?

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

Yonny Chirinos’ Braves’ debut didn’t go great, but it wasn’t really his fault. Chirinos went 18-and-out across 3 23 innings, and was charged with four runs despite a 3/1 K/BB ratio. The line was silly: 9.82 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 3.78 xFIP. Even sillier: he had a .258 xwOBA-against, though the batters’ actual wOBA in the game was .374. The Braves certainly have other options for his spot in the rotation, but those options haven’t performed particularly well either, and at this point, there’s little harm in giving Chirinos another start to see if his defense and the vagaries of balls in play can actually help him rather than hurting him this time.

Weirdly enough, despite a half-decade in the majors, all of it but that one start in the American League, Chirinos has somehow never faced the Angels.

For this rubber game, the Braves aren’t the only ones deploying a newly-acquired starter — the Angels will be giving the ball to Lucas Giolito, whom they acquired a week ago from the White Sox. Funnily enough, Giolito’s first start for his new team was somewhat similar to Chirinos’ experience: a 5.06 ERA, 6.84 FIP, and a 3.78 xFIP. The difference, of course, was that Giolito’s victimization came at the hands of the two homers he allowed to the Blue Jays in five innings, which is more attributable to him than the ball-in-play stuff to Chirinos. In any case, on the season, Giolito has basically been an innings sponge with some good fortune — he has a 90 ERA-, 103 FIP-, and 101 xFIP-. Those numbers are a far cry from his much more dominant 2019-2021 period, and even last year, he had a good xFIP but was undone by ball-in-play stuff (though he did allow better contact than before).

The difference for Giolito has largely been one of stuff, rather than command (which remains very good) or approach. Over time, as he’s lost a bit of power, his slider has gone from more of a cutter-used-like-a-slider to a generic slider, with less consistency in terms of its spin axis. More puzzling is the diminished effectiveness on his changeup, which has added to its previously below-average fade but has gotten hit much harder, despite some huge velocity separation from his fastball. If Giolito or perhaps his new team can figure out how to get his changeup to the performance level it previously enjoyed, he could have a renaissance, but right now, the Braves are essentially contending with a league-average hurler.

Giolito has faced the Braves twice in his career so far. One outing was a long relief appearance with the Nationals during his rookie season; the other was a much-anticipated start in 2019 where Freddie Freeman hit two homers off of him in a 5-3 win, even as Giolito mowed down the other Braves with relative ease.

The Braves are 8-1 in rubber games so far this year, but that comes with a few weird notes. First, they didn’t even have a rubber game until May. Second, they didn’t lose one until after the All-Star Break.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves vs. Anaheim Angels

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

12:20 pm EDT

Truist Park

Atlanta, GA

TV: Bankruptcy Sports South, MLB Network

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan

XM Radio: Ch. 175

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