SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Braves this year have been a disappointment, never quite finding their footing, but the talent on this roster is still very dangerous.
Down. The Braves had been looking like they were ready to right this ship for the early part of this month, but then things have started to trend back downhill more recently. They did win their last game on Sunday, but that was preceded by a four-game losing streak.
6/15: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Tucker Davidson, 7:20 PM ET
It has been a rough week or two for the Red Sox rotation as a whole, but for Rodriguez it’s been a much longer stretch of subpar pitching. Boston’s lefty is simply getting hit around pretty much every time out, with his last start being up there with the worst of the bunch. He missed out on the Toronto series, but he was out there for the finale against Houston. And while the Red Sox did win that game, Rodriguez allowed six runs over 4 2⁄3 innings with three walks and five strikeouts. He’s allowed at least one homer in each of his last four starts, and has made it beyond five innings just once since May 13. The Red Sox need some stability in the rotation right now, and Rodriguez figuring things out would be a massive step in that direction.
Davidson is a former 19th round pick and one of the better pitching prospects in the Braves system. The southpaw made his debut last summer for one start and has made three more this season, putting up strong results with a 1.53 ERA. He does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and just inducing weak contact generally, which has allowed him to keep the ball in the yard. On the other hand, his stuff is solid at best and there are some control issues, so the Red Sox do have a path to beating him if they’re patient and strike when the opportunities arise. This will be the first time Davidson will meet an opponent out of his division this season. Boston did face him in his lone start last season, knocking him out in the second inning thanks to a seven-run outburst, albeit with five of the runs being unearned. The lefty will feature a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s along with a slider and the occasional curveball.
6/16: Garrett Richards vs. Ian Anderson, 7:20 PM ET (ESPN for out-of-market)
Richards has been performing a highwire act for his last handful of outings, and while the results have been mostly solid the Red Sox are probably looking for more of a stress-free outing this time around. Last time out he kept the team in the game, allowing four runs while pitching into the sixth, but he also gave up 11 hits while walking two more. He’s allowed at least 10 hits and walks combined in four of his last five outings, putting a whole lot of high-stress innings on an arm that already had workload concerns as it was. Atlanta is not an easy lineup, and is in fact one of the teams to reach double-digit baserunners in this recent stretch. They had six hits and four walks against him the last time these two teams faced off, but they only managed three runs over 5 2⁄3 innings. Richards will be looking for better command and just generally a better time against this lineup this time around.
Anderson is not just a top prospect in the Braves system but one of the very best young pitchers in the game today. He’s also had some success already in the majors, putting up a sub-2.00 ERA in six starts last season in his first taste of the bigs and following that up with a 3.26 ERA through 12 starts this season. The big righty will have some control problems that should force the Red Sox to show off their patience, but he also comes at you with big stuff that is both easy to swing through and hard to square up even if you do make contact. Anderson is coming off one of his best starts of the season as well, tossing seven scoreless innings against the Phillies last week. The Red Sox did get a look at him last year, scoring two runs over six innings in his second career start. Anderson will feature a fastball that sits in the mid-90s along with a changeup and a curveball.
Pablo Sandoval is not really considered a friend by many Red Sox fans, but he is somehow still hanging around the league, largely as a bench piece who can come in late in games and come through in big pinch hitting spots.
Notable Position Players
Ronald Acuña Jr. is, for my money, the most exciting player in the game. He brings everything to the table, with massive power, good plate discipline, great athleticism, and a swag you can’t teach. He’ll be a problem at the top of this lineup for both of these games.
Freddie Freeman is arguably a better pure hitter than Acuña, showing off some of the best plate discipline in the game along with a propensity to make hard contact. That said, BABIP issues have made him more good than great so far this season.
Ozzie Albies is a tremendous third wheel after those first two names, and cannot be forgotten at the top of this lineup. The second baseman hits for surprising power for his stature, and makes plenty of contact to boot.
Austin Riley has been the big breakout in the Braves lineup this year, tapping into his raw power enough to mask the swing and miss issues that exist as well.
Abraham Almonte has been playing a lot of late, and is boosting his line with a huge walk rate. The Red Sox should be looking to make him swing the bat.
Dansby Swanson has been a bit disappointing at the plate this year, struggling with his plate discipline, which in turn has made it more difficult for him to tap into his power.
William Contreras has been solid behind the dish, and while he will strike out enough his power has been able to make up the gap so far this season.
Ender Inciarte is all defense at this point, as he rarely hits the ball with any authority when he’s at the plate.
Will Smith has not been good as the Braves close this year looking at his ERA approaching 5.00, but the peripherals tell a much different story and he should not be underestimated.
Chris Martin has not pitched a ton this year, but he’s using his excellent command and control to thrive despite lackluster stuff so far.
A.J. Minter is a tough lefty who will run into some command problems here and there but also will miss a ton of bats in the process.
Marcell Ozuna originally went to the injured list with fractured fingers, but then shortly after that was arrested on domestic violence charges that will likely keep him off the field for the rest of the year, and potentially well beyond that.
Mike Soroka tore his Achilles last summer and has had some setbacks along the way, leading to fear he may not pitch at all this season. But the Braves are still holding out hope he’ll return later in the year.
Travis d’Arnaud had surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb earlier this season, but the Braves are hoping to get him back at some point in the final six weeks or so of the season.
Huascar Ynoa fractured his hands after punching the bench in the dugout in May, and will be out for at least another month and probably a bit longer.
Touki Toussaint went down with a shoulder injury at the end of camp, but he’s getting ready to start a rehab assignment soon.
Grant Dayton hit the injured list with a shoulder issue earlier this month, and the extent of the injury is still not entirely clear.
Alex Jackson was just about set to end his rehab and rejoin the team before he hurt his finger, causing him to miss a little more time.
Things should be able to go off smoothly down in Atlanta for these next two days, although Tuesday is a bit of a question mark. There are some thunderstorms in the area that night, but it appears they should hold off long enough to allow this game to proceed without delay or pause.