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Braves continue homestand with three-game series against Pirates

Atlanta’s magic number is 10 to clinch a sixth straight NL East crown.

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves will continue their homestand Friday when they begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves homered five times Thursday to snap a three-game skid with an 8-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Braves continue to hit homers at a historic pace. Ronald Acuña Jr. homered twice Thursday and now has 34. Matt Olson tied Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews for the second-most homers by a Brave in a season with his 47th. Atlanta has now hit 270 homers on the season, which is nine behind the 2019 Dodgers for the National League record and are 37 homers shy of the major league record held by the 2019 Minnesota Twins.

Austin Riley missed his first game of the season Thursday due to illness and his status for Friday’s opener is unknown. Brian Snitker said before Thursday’s game that they are hoping that it is just a 24-hour thing, but they won’t know until they see how he is feeling when he comes in.

The Pirates come into the series playing well, having won seven of their last 10 games to improve their record to 65-75 on the season. Pittsburgh is 24-26 since the All-Star Break and 18-17 since the start of August. They played the Braves tough in Pittsburgh in early August, splitting a four-game series. Of their 22 remaining games, 15 are against teams that are in contention at the moment, so they have a definite chance to play spoiler.

Ke’Bryan Hayes put together a good performance during that earlier series with Atlanta and has been on a tear during the second half hitting .306/.356/.587 with eight homers and a 148 wRC+. Veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen won’t play in the series after suffering an Achilles injury earlier this week. McCutchen is just one home run shy of 300 for his career.

On the season, the Pirates have made do with a weak position player unit and an average-y pitching staff. Their biggest strength is probably their bullpen, though Friday night starter Mitch Keller and Hayes are having nice seasons too.

Friday, September 8, 7:20 p.m. ET ( Bally Sports Southeast)

Mitch Keller (28 GS, 169.2 IP, 26.0 K%, 7.1 BB%, 43.5 GB%, 3.93 ERA, 3.67 FIP)

Right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for the Pirates in Friday’s opener. Keller has put together the best season of his career in 2023 and is coming off of a good outing in his last start where he allowed five hits and one run over six innings against the Cardinals. Keller has been Pittsburgh’s most productive player on the year, with 3.1 fWAR so far. He had a rough July, with an FIP near 6.00 and an xFIP near 5.00, but has gone back to pitching really well, especially in his last four starts (31 ERA-, 51 FIP-, 71 xFIP-).

Keller faced the Braves during the earlier series in Pittsburgh and allowed nine hits and three runs in five innings, in what was his last struggle bug start before the four straight good ones.

Bryce Elder (27 GS, 155.1 IP, 17.3 K%, 8.3 BB%, 50.7 GB%, 3.42 ERA, 4.26 FIP)

Bryce Elder will get the start for Atlanta in the series opener and will be looking to continue a strong season. Elder is coming off a solid outing where he allowed five hits and one run in six innings against the Dodgers. He’s allowed one run or less in three of his past four starts. However, only one of those starts has featured a K/BB ratio above 1.00, and despite the results, Elder isn’t pitching particularly well these days. Since June 27, which is 12 starts, he has a 36/29 K/BB ratio with a 108/116/126 line, compared to a 75/24 K/BB ratio and a 54/86/84 line in his first 15 starts of the season. He hasn’t had an unequivocally good start since throwing seven shutout innings against the Phillies on June 22, but the Braves will run him out and hope that he regains what made him so successful earlier in the year.

Elder faced the Pirates up in Pittsburgh and allowed five runs in five innings, albeit with a 5/2 K/BB ratio. But, his xFIP in that start was above 5.00, due to not generating many groundballs.

Saturday, September 9, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Johan Oviedo (28 GS, 158.0 IP, 19.9 K%, 10.2 BB%, 44.9 GB%, 4.27 ERA, 4.46 FIP)

Righty Johan Oviedo will get the call for Pittsburgh in Saturday’s game. Oviedo will be making his 29th start of the season and has a 4.27 ERA and a 4.46 FIP in 158 innings this season. Oviedo is coming off a start where he allowed three earned runs and issued a season-high six walks over 3 2/3 innings against the Cardinals. He did not face the Braves during the series at PNC Park and has one career appearance against Atlanta where he allowed one hit and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings.

Perhaps due to fatigue, or just greater familiarity from the league, Oviedo’s performance has really slid lately; he has a 5.60 xFIP and 4.83 FIP in his last seven starts.


Charlie Morton would be on normal rest for Saturday’s start, but it looks like the Braves are going to push him back to give him some extra rest. Brian Snitker said Thursday that they were still figuring out their plans for the weekend. It appears that both Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd would be options to start Saturday’s game.

Sunday, September 10, 1:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Luis Ortiz (14 G, 12 GS, 68.0 IP, 15.3 K%, 11.5 BB%, 47.1 GB%, 4.90 ERA, 5.63 FIP)

The Pirates haven’t officially announced a starter for Sunday’s game, but Ortiz would be lined up for it on extra rest. Ortiz last pitched on September 4 where he allowed two runs over six innings against the Brewers. Ortiz has largely gotten hammered this season, whether starting or following an opener as a bulk option. He was promoted in May and made ten starts before being optioned back down; in three outings since being recalled, he hasn’t really pitched much better than earlier in the year.


The Braves also listed TBD for Sunday’s start. Allan Winans pitched Tuesday and would be an option for Sunday.

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