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Series Preview: Red Sox at Braves

A look ahead to the upcoming three-game set in Atlanta.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Talking Chop

The Opponent in one sentence

The Braves have an exciting young core that has arrived about a year ahead of schedule to put Atlanta somewhat comfortably in first place in the National League East.

Record

76-70

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Braves 1

Trend

Down. The Braves are still hanging on to their advantage in their division because the Phillies are playing poor baseball at the moment, but Atlanta is also losing a chance to really pull away. They haven’t been disastrous or anything, but they are 4-5 over their last nine.

Pitching Matchups

9/3: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Touki Toussaint, 1:05 PM ET

Eovaldi has been struggling mightily of late for the Red Sox, and last week he was even offered a helping hand from Pedro Martinez. The legendary pitcher found a mechanical issue involving the way Eovaldi is landing when he throws, and Pedro is trying to get him to land in a more athletic position. Eovaldi had a chance to try that out on Friday, but he didn’t look great. The righty had an awful first inning, but he only got to throw one more frame after that due to rain. Hopefully with a little more time he can better implement those changes and have things set for a strong outing. He has an 8.05 ERA over his last five starts and 19 innings. This will be Eovaldi’s first appearance against the Braves this season.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Toussaint is an extremely talented young pitcher who matches the potential in his arm with a lack of experience in the majors. The righty was one of the game’s top prospects just a few years ago before falling off, but he’s come back in a major way in 2018. Between Double- and Triple-A he has a 2.38 ERA on the year with almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings. This performance earned Toussaint a chance to play in the Futures Game during All-Star festivities, and he followed that up with his major-league debut in August against the Marlins. It’s his only MLB start to date, and he tossed six innings in which he allowed just two runs and two hits. Toussaint features a pair of mid-90s fastballs along with a curveball and a splitter.

9/4: Rick Porcello vs. Sean Newcomb, 7:35 PM ET

The Red Sox and Porcello need the righty to turn things around soon. He has been struggling mightily of late, and even with the rotation at full strength it seems all but certain that he’ll get a postseason start. With the way he’s throwing right now, it’s hard to trust him in that scenario. He has had some solid outings, too, and there have been bad beginnings to his outings followed by him settling down, but overall it’s been disappointing. Since his masterful one-hitter against the Yankees Porcello has a 6.43 ERA over his last five starts. That’s simply not going to cut it. The good news for him is that he’s loved hitting, and he’ll get to do that again on Tuesday. Porcello didn’t pitch against the Braves the last time these two teams met.

Newcomb is another part of this young Braves core that they hope will help them win for a long time. The southpaw was on a strong run to start his season but has been struggling a bit of late. Overall, the Massachusetts native has a 3.85 ERA with a 4.08 FIP and a 3.74 DRA on the year. He can rack up strikeouts and is about average at keeping the ball in the yard, but he also has a tendency to lose control at times. That has hurt him lately and he has an ERA of 8.38 over his last four outings. The Red Sox scored three runs off Newcomb in three innings back in May. He features a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a changeup and a slider.

9/5: TBD vs. Mike Foltynewicz, 12:10 PM ET

The Red Sox still haven’t announced their plans for Wednesday’s game. This would normally be David Price’s spot in the rotation, but after being hit on the wrist in his last start the Red Sox are going to skip him. The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but they won’t take any chances, particularly in a National League Park. They could give Hector Velazquez another spot start, though he’s been rough of late. Drew Pomeranz and William Cuevas are the other options. Steven Wright could feasibly be an option, though I think they want to keep him in a relief role.

Foltynewicz is in the midst of a breakout year after toiling in mediocrity for most of his career. The 26-year-old made his first career All-Star Game this summer and has continued to pitch well since then. On the season, the righty has a 2.80 ERA with a 3.32 FIP and a 3.18 DRA on the year over 26 starts. Strikeouts have ruled his game, and he is setting down more than ten batters per nine innings on the season. August was another strong month for him, too, with a 2.09 ERA over six starts last month, though he did allow five runs (four earned) in six innings against the Cubs his last time out. Foltynewicz allowed just one run over seven innings against the Red Sox in May and features a pair of mid-to-high-90s fastballs along with a slider.

Old Friends

Anibal Sanchez was once a top prospect in the Red Sox organization and he was a part of the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston way back in the winter of 2005. Since then he has put together an up-and-down career, but he’s still kicking around as a 34-year-old. In fact, he’s had a bounce-back season with a 2.98 ERA on the season.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Position Players

Ronald Acuña was the top prospect in the game heading into the season and he’s turned himself into the young faces of the game. The outfielder has proven to be an all-around talent this season and in particular is hitting for a ton of power atop Atlanta’s lineup.

Freddie Freeman is still the top player on this Braves team despite all of the young talent. The first baseman is one of the very best hitters in all of baseball and he does literally everything well.

Ozzie Albies is another one of the piece in the Braves young core and he has had a strong season. He won’t walk much but he has solid pop and puts the ball in play a ton.

Nick Markakis has come out of nowhere for a bounce-back season in the Braves outfielder, doing it on batting average in typical Markakis fashion.

Ender Inciarte isn’t a great hitter but he’ll put the ball in play just about every time up and he is great with his legs and with the glove in center field.

Kurt Suzuki is one half of the Braves catching duo and he’s a very solid hitter particularly at his position.

Tyler Flowers is the other half of the catching duo and he doesn’t put the ball in play as much as Suzuki but is about the same level of hitter.

Johan Camargo is having a fine season with average-ish skills across the board that have combined to give him above-average production at the plate.

Dansby Swanson isn’t living up to his former number one pick status but he’s capable of going on runs that are much better than his 84 wRC+.

Bullpen Snapshot

A.J. Minter is serving as the Braves closer this year and the lefty gets huge strikeout numbers while keeping the ball in the yard. He can lose command every once in awhile but for the most part he’s been nails late in games.

Dan Winkler and Brad Brach combine to set-up games from the right side and they both have the talent to dominate but also the inconsistency where it’s not a death sentence to see them in the eighth.

Injuries

Arodys Vizcaino is dealing with shoulder injury that has kept him out for most of the second half but he should be back soon. The closer has started a rehab and should return at some point this month.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Soroka went down with a shoulder injury in June and isn’t going to be back again this season.

Brandon McCarthy should return to the Braves rotation at some point in the next week or two with a knee issue.

Darren O’Day was acquired at the deadline but underwent season-ending surgery a few weeks before that.

Jose Ramirez has missed all but the first couple weeks of the season with a shoulder injury.

Grant Dayton underwent Tommy John surgery about a year ago and won’t be ready to pitch again until next spring.

Jacob Lindgren underwent Tommy John surgery in March and will miss the entire season.

Peter Moylan was hoping to return soon but suffered a setback with his forearm injury and it will sideline him for the rest of the year.

Michael Reed got hurt in his first game after being called up and will miss the rest of the year.

Weather Forecast

It is going to be hot and humid down in Atlanta all week but there doesn’t appear to be much concern as far as rain goes.