When the Braves and Brewers tangled about five weeks ago in Milwaukee, they were the cream of the National League crop. The Brewers had the best record in their league and led their division by a game; the Braves had the league’s third-best record and had a 1.5-game lead on the Phillies. The Brewers handily bested the Braves in that four-game set, clobbering Atlanta pitching twice and splitting the other two games; the Braves ended up limping to an 11-14 July. Notably, though, the Brewers didn’t fare much better after knocking the Braves around — they went 9-11 in July after that Braves series, and have followed that up by going 3-5 in August. In particular, they had a horrendous road trip right after the Braves came to town, losing two of three in Miami and then getting swept in a five-game series (doubleheader included) by the Pirates. Most recently, Milwaukee has split a six-game homestand with the Rockies and Padres, so they’ve been somewhat treading water, too.
As a result, when the Braves and Brewers meet on Friday night in Atlanta for their second and final series of the year, neither team now leads their division. The Brewers now trail the Cubs by two games in the Central; the Braves trail the Phillies by one in the East. Before they last met, 1.5 games separated these two teams; now it’s one game, but they have the league’s third- and fourth-best records rather than first and third-best.
Both teams were busy at the deadline: the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, and Joakim Soria (who gave up a go-ahead, game-losing grand slam to Hunter Renfroe yesterday); the Braves acquired four players, one of whom will make the start for them tonight in the series opener.
Kevin Gausman had a so-so first outing with his new team, as he lasted five innings and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks to the Mets. Perhaps most disappointing was his K/BB ratio (2/2), as well as the fact that his pitch mix was not radically different. There’s always been the hope that the Braves acquired Gausman with an eye towards tinkering with and improving his approach and results, so we’ll see what happens going forward — as any potential refinements may not have had time to percolate into his gameplan before he made his first start as a Brave.
Gausman will be opposed by rookie Freddy Peralta, who was victorious against the Braves as his teammates shelled Mike Foltynewicz for five runs on two homers back in July. Peralta allowed one run in six innings in that outing, and seems to match up well with the Braves because he’s very prone to walks (fourth among MLB starters with 50+ IP in walk rate, ahead of Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran), while the Braves (22nd in MLB in offensive walk rate) have little interest in drawing them. Peralta is also pretty good at keeping the ball in the park (he’s allowed homers in just four of his 10 starts), so if that continues and the Braves aren’t walking nor homering, it could be a long night offensively for the home team.
Like many of his Brewers teammates, Peralta hit a rough patch after the Braves departed Milwaukee in July, allowing 10 runs in nine and two-thirds innings of work over his next two starts, including a start in Miami where he couldn’t complete four innings, and a seven-run shelling in Washington. Since then, he’s bounced back somewhat, tossing four one-run innings against the Dodgers and then six innings of two-run ball against the Rockies in his most recent start. Overall, Peralta rocks an 85 ERA-, 83 FIP-, and 99 xFIP- on the year.
Overall, Peralta is a pretty weird candidate for a starting pitcher: he throws his fastball more than three quarters of the time, and it lacks premium velocity, averaging below 92 mph. Yet, it has a particularly high spin rate, and whether for that reason or another, it generates a ton of swing-and-miss. The Braves’ high contact approach did not pay dividends against Peralta last time, as aside from a walk-RBI double sequence to start the game, they spent the rest of his outing making weak outs or going down on strikes.
Gausman has never faced the Brewers in his career.
Milwaukee Brewers at Atlanta Braves
Friday, August 10, 2018
7:35 pm EDT
SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports South, MLB Network
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM