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Braves head to Colorado for a three-game matchup against the Rockies

Atlanta will make their second stop on a three-city road trip.

Colorado Rockies v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves will continue their road trip Monday when they begin a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Braves took two of three from the Giants in San Francisco to begin the trip and are 84-45 on the season. They currently hold a 12.5 game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East standings.

The Braves could get a key piece of their lineup back Monday ahead of the series opener. Ozzie Albies has been out since August 15 with a strained hamstring and could be activated before Monday’s game. He worked out on the field again Sunday and will get checked out again Monday before a final determination is made.

This series will mark the return of Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand to Colorado for the first time since they were acquired at the Trade Deadline by the Braves. Atlanta sent minor league pitchers Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon to Colorado in exchange for Johnson. He’s been excellent for the Braves, allowing just one run over his first 13 appearances, with a 2.35 FIP and 1.98 xFIP. Brad Hand’s performance has been far more of a mixed bag, as he has an FIP and xFIP north of 5.00 as a Brave, and has struggled to retire lefties (though it’s been ball-in-play stuff in large part). Johnson looks like a lock for the playoff roster at this point, but Hand is still out there pitching to have a spot in October.

Atlanta swept a four-game series with Colorado at Truist Park back in June as part of an eight-game winning streak. They scored 40 runs in four games against Colorado pitching, while allowing the Rockies to tally just six runs in the first three games of the series, before allowing a meaningless six-spot in a 14-6 win to complete the sweep.

It has been another tough season for the Rockies, who come into the series with a 49-81 record, outpacing only the Royals and Athletics. They have lost seven of 10 overall, but did avoid a three-game sweep in Baltimore with a 4-3 win Sunday. Colorado rolled out a lineup featuring five rookies in Sunday’s game, including first baseman Hunter Goodman, who had two hits in his major league debut. Veteran outfielder Jurickson Profar was released Sunday to make room on the active roster for Goodman. Nolan Jones has put together a strong second half and leads the team with a 116 wRC+. Charlie Blackmon recently returned from the Injured List and is 16-for-39 with a double, two triples and two homers over his last 11 games. Overall, though, this is the worst position player group in the majors and it’s not really even close, and the rotation is something like the second-worst in baseball. If not for a bullpen that’s been surprisingly decent thanks to breakouts by Jake Bird, Justin Lawrence, and Brent Suter, the Rockies might have a record even worse than the Royals... though the Athletics are still probably out of reach at this point.

Monday, August 28, 8:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Bryce Elder (25 GS, 143.1 IP, 17.5 K%, 8.1 BB%, 51.9 GB%, 3.39 ERA, 4.27 FIP)

Bryce Elder will take his turn for the Braves in the opener Monday. After a pair of rough outings to begin August, Elder has settled in with two decent performances. He allowed just two hits and one run over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the Mets. He’s allowed just three hits and one run combined over his last 12 1/3 innings. Elder continues to operate with a FIP that is about a run more than his ERA, but he continues to give the Braves innings and that is what they need from him at this point in the season.

Through June 22, Elder had a 54 ERA-, 86 FIP-, and 85 xFIP-, a formidable pitching line. Since then, his line is 114/120/130, which is not really rosterable. He’s gone over a month at this point without a league-average xFIP- in a game. The Braves will take the decent results he’s had lately, but there’s some work to be done for sure to get him back to where he was earlier in the year. It’s not really a question of capability, and more an issue pertaining to whether he can fix his issues enough to get back to even something in between his first 15 starts and what he’s done since then.

Austin Gomber (26 GS, 136.1 IP, 14.6 K%, 6.9 BB%, 41.9 GB%, 5.48 ERA, 5.36 FIP)

Left-hander Austin Gomber will start opposite of Elder in the opener. Gomber put together a solid stretch following the All-Star Break, but has struggled a bit of late. He allowed seven hits and three runs, including a pair of homers, in his last start against the Rays. He’s allowed nine earned runs combined over his last 11 1/3 innings. Gomber has been able to give the Rockies some length, logging at least five innings in 13 straight starts. The Braves missed him this past June, but obliterated him last June.

Tuesday, August 29, 8:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Charlie Morton (25 GS, 141.2 IP, 25.5 K%, 10.9 BB%, 44.6 GB%, 3.37 ERA, 3.88 FIP

Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will get the start in Tuesday’s matchup. Like Elder, Morton went through a rough patch coming out of the All-Star Break, but has turned in improved performances in two straight starts. The difference for Morton was that his success hasn’t been predicated on smoke and mirrors. Morton allowed just two hits and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings against the Mets in his last start. Morton hasn’t allowed a run in 18 straight innings and has 21 strikeouts and just two walks over his last two starts combined. After a horrible five-start stretch, Morton has sharply decreased his four-seam fastball usage and more than doubled up on how often he throws cutters, which apparently has made a big difference.

Peter Lambert (22 G, 8 GS, 71.1 IP, 20.6 K%, 8.3 BB%, 43.3 GB%, 4.92 ERA, 5.30 FIP)

Right-hander Peter Lambert joined Colorado’s bullpen in early May, but shifted to the rotation at the start of July and has pitched well posting a 3.38 ERA and a 4.55 FIP over eight starts, though the 110 xFIP- (which is after the Coors Field park adjustment) continues to loom. He allowed four hits and two runs over five innings in his last start against the Rays. Lambert tossed two scoreless innings in relief against the Braves back on June 16 at Truist Park. As a pitch-to-contact guy that isn’t a groundball specialist, the ceiling isn’t particularly high here, but with an okay four-pitch mix, the Rockies have much bigger problems than Lambert’s performance.

Wednesday, August 30, 8:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)


The Braves listed Wednesday’s starter as TBA. Spencer Strider would have been on normal rest for this start, but they will give him an extra day and line him up to start Thursday’s series opener against the Dodgers.

Kyle Freeland (25 GS, 135.0 IP, 14.7 K%, 6.3 BB%, 39.3 GB%, 5.00 ERA, 5.25 FIP)

Veteran lefty Kyle Freeland will get the start Wednesday in the series finale. Freeland allowed eight hits and three runs over six innings in his last start against the Orioles. He was hit hard by the Braves back on June 15 in Atlanta where he allowed nine hits and seven runs in just 4 1/3 innings. Freehand has logged at least five innings in five straight starts and nine of his last 10.

Freeland’s had an up-and-down career, going from a four-win season as a second-year player in 2018 to sharply diminished performance afterwards, before bouncing back to pitch reasonably well in 2021-2022. However, he hasn’t been able to keep it going this year, as he currently has the worst xFIP- and second-worst FIP- of his career. He’s really homer-prone because he’s no longer a groundball-eliciting guy, which means that almost every start ends up getting killed by a longball or two.

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