After back-to-back wins against the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves head to the West Coast for the start of a ten-game long road trip that will see them visit San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles. The start of the trip features another weekend against the Giants, who the Braves took two out of three a few days earlier.
A rough August sent the Giants into a dogfight for the final Wild Card spot in a notoriously crowded playoff race. The Giants are half a game away from the playoffs at the moment, and are tied with division rivals the Diamondbacks. The thing is, there are six teams within 4.5 game radius of all three Wild Card spots in the NL at present, so it’s just a mess. Not helping matters, the Giants have led 5-12 over the last 17 games, turning what looked like a comfortable path to a playoff spot into a sticky situation. On August 3, the Giants sat at 61-49 and just 2.5 games behind the Dodgers, but now any dreams of a division are long gone and a playoff spot is no longer a certainty.
While the Giants have a good group of players, they lack a star player who can carry the lineup. The player leaders in fWAR, Thairo Estrada and Patrick Bailey, are known for their defense more than offense, and Estrada’s XwOBA is less than .300. Meanwhile, the two best hitters are Wilmer Flores and Lamonte Wade Jr., but neither of them really offer defensive value.
While the Giants have been struggling, the Braves are hot again, going 15-7 in August so far. The show has been exceptional this month, with seven games already closed, including one last night against the Mets. They also shut out the Giants last Friday, the third of three in a row. It doesn’t seem like the Braves really needed a dominant promotion either, given that they had the most centered player in fWAR in August, but as has been the case for most of the year, there’s just an embarrassment of fortunes circulating around this list.
Friday, August 25, 10:15 PM ET (Bali Sports Southeast)
Spencer Strider (25 GS, 146.1 IP, 38.2 K%, 7.7 BB%, 34.2 GB%, 3.57 ERA, 2.87 FIP)
After his successful start in Pittsburgh, Spencer Stryder bounced back brilliantly, pitching 14 scoreless innings in his last two games. His final start came against the Giants, where he threw seven scoreless innings while striking out 10 and allowing one hit and one walk. After seven scoreless games against the Mets in which he wasn’t having his best, Strider had his “A” game against the Giants. He’ll be looking to use his overwhelming combination of fastball passing to once again stifle San Francisco. When it comes to hitting hits, Stryder is the undisputed king, with 32 more hits than any other player in baseball, despite only ranking 21st in innings pitched. Both his fastball and slider get exceptional whiff numbers, putting batters at his mercy. He has 100 hits on his fastball and 111 hits on his slider. The right-handed youngster has ten double-digit strikeout games, and another eight where he’s struck out nine batters.
Logan Webb (26 GS, 169 IP, 24.2 K%, 3.9 BB%, 60.7 GB%, 3.36 ERA, 3.27 FIP)
Logan Webb has had a stellar year, combining very good stats with elite size, putting together a season that made him into Cy Young competition. (Interestingly enough, he leads baseball in WARP, but he’s nowhere near the top in fWAR.) In his start against the Braves last week, he hit six innings, but wasn’t at his best, allowing a homer to a 5/0 k/b ratio. . Webb relies on getting ground balls and avoiding walks, with a batting average of 60.7 and a walk rate of 3.9 which are both among the best in baseball.
Webb’s had a bit of luck since the All-Star break: he’s been at 74 ERA-, 77 FIP-, 67 xFIP- through, and an unchanged 93/82/67 since then.
Saturday, August 26 at 4:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast, FS1)
Max Fried (9 GS, 47.2 IP, 23.2 K%, 4.6 BB%, 61 GB%, 2.83 ERA, 3.10 FIP)
The Giants did better against Max Fried than they did the Desperate against Stryder. In his outing against the Giants last week, Fried went to #5 2⁄3 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits. It was a bit of an odd outing for him, allowing two homers for only the 13th game of his multiplayer career, but he still managed a 6/1 K/BB ratio.
Fried’s stats since returning from the injured list are pretty much what you’d expect in the aggregate (84/74/69), but those stats are weighed heavily by his dominance of the Cubs, as the streak changed to 116/96/86 in his last game with three starts. His contact management (.318 xwOBA-against) in those three starts wasn’t quite up to his usual, best-in-class standards, but as you can probably tell, he fell victim to balls on play and on defense, with .390 wOBA against in the same span. . He’ll be fine, and it’s really impressive that he didn’t miss a lot of a beat despite the long layoff.
The Giants will be determined to start but will likely have a day’s work, a tactic used by the Giants frequently. Sean Manya, Jacob Gunness, and Tristan Beck are some of the guys who might see multiple roles in the bullpen. The Braves have seen a fair amount of Junis and Beck in Atlanta, and Manaea has put in a great showing since moving into the big role.
Sunday, August 27 at 7:10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Braves’ start for Sunday’s game will be decided. They have a lot of options already mapped out at the beginning of this year, but Colin McHugh or Michael Tonkin seem likely to have a big part in the game as well.
Kyle Harrison (1 GS, 3.1 IP, 31.3 K%, 6.3 BB%, 11.1 GB%, 5.40 ERA, 5.97 FIP)
While it has yet to be announced, Sunday is rookie Kyle Harrison’s spot in the rotation. Harrison is the starting prospect in the Giants organization and has put up obscene numbers in his minor league career. in 279 1⁄3 In minor league innings, Harrison has 452 strikeouts, or 14.6 k/9. He’s earned those numbers with an elite fastball group. His mid-90s fastball catches hitters quickly because of his low arm opening, and his sweeping low-80s slider is also a huge whiff generator. He’s had trouble with control this year at Triple-A, walking 6.6 batters in nine innings, so a patient approach could cause problems for the young pitcher. In his big league debut, Harrison went 3.1 innings against the Phillies, allowing two earned runs while allowing five hits and generating five hits in one walk. He somehow only got one ball for eight balls in the air in that game, which might make him a perfect fit for his home court but it’s a really dangerous way to try and survive.