Fresh off the heels of leaving San Francisco with two wins out of three, the Atlanta Braves are now heading to the lands of purple mountain majesty as they’ll be kicking off a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies tonight.
Bryce Elder is starting for the Braves this evening and while Elder has been getting things back on track lately, tonight’s game could serve as a major test for the young hurler. You see, Bryce Elder pitches to contact and even though Colorado doesn’t have the most imposing offense in the world no matter where they play (they have the worst home team wRC+ in baseball with 80), you’re definitely going to be walking a fine line trying to rely on ground balls in this particular environment.
The good news is that Elder does have experience this season of getting the job done against the Rockies. He went six innings and gave up four hits while striking out four batters and only giving up one run back on June 17. That series was a dominant one for the Braves and the obvious hope is that Elder’s start tonight can help to pick things up where they left off for that series back in June.
Meanwhile, the Rockies are sending Austin Gomber to the mound and I’ll begin by saying that his profile on Baseball Savant suggests that he could be in trouble if Atlanta’s offense is locked in tonight. He’s in the 19th percentile in Average Exit Velocity, the 20th percentile in Hard Hit percentage, the fifth and seventh percentile in xBA and xSLG, the 34th percentile in Barrel percentage and the third percentile in strikeout percentage. If you look at where the Braves rank in all of those categories, then it’s safe to say that if the trends are followed then the Braves could have a big night at the plate tonight.
Gomber’s recent performances have been a bit of a roller coaster, as he closed out July and opened up August on a strong note but then slowed down a bit over his three most recent starts. With that being said, going six innings against the Rays with three runs allowed and five innings against the Dodgers with two runs allowed is nothing to sneeze at so he definitely has to be taken seriously on the mound. He also has a streak dating back to June 14 where he’s gone at least five innings over his past 13 starts. Whether he’s getting lit up or he’s dealing, he’s likely to be the pitching of record for tonight’s game.
While Bryce Elder and Austin Gomber both have had their moments this season, this could be one of those classic Coors Field games if both pitchers aren’t exactly off to the races this evening. Bryce Elder’s been the better pitcher all season and while Gomber hasn’t seen the Braves all season, he’ll be trying to use this performance to bury the memories of what happened the last time that he saw the Braves in this ballpark last season. It didn’t go well for him!
The big news for tonight is that Ozzie Albies is returning to the lineup after missing two weeks due to a strained hamstring. While Nicky Lopez and Vaughn Grissom did well enough as replacements, it’s pretty big to bring back an overall player of Ozzie’s quality to the lineup. Albies will be entering tonight’s game with a 121 wRC+, a .354 wOBA and an Isolated Power number of .247 with 28 homers. Simply put, the Braves are going to have all of their big boppers going for their opener in Coors Field, which is exactly what you want to see from a lineup the caliber of Atlanta’s this season.
While Travis d’Arnaud likely won’t be joining Ozzie Albies in the lineup in order to repeat what he did last year against Austin Gomber (since got his usual start yesterday), the Braves should still be entering this game with some confidence that they can get the offense going this evening. The environment of Coors Field itself seems to lend itself to how the Braves hit and while Bryce Elder could potentially run into some trouble based on his profile, the obvious hope is that he can find a way to keep Colorado’s lineup quiet this evening. If he can do it, then the Braves could be on their way to a bounce-back victory following their slip up on Sunday in San Francisco.
Game Date/Time: Monday, August 28, 8:40 p.m. ET
Location: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan