After returning home from sweeping the Marlins in Miami and completing a 4-2 road trip, the Braves are in for some deja vu, all over again. If you’re such a glutton for punishment that last Wednesday’s Joe Musgrove-Kevin Gausman matchup didn’t fulfill your needs, you’re in luck: that’s the same pitching matchup on tap for the series opener between the Braves and the Pirates on Monday night in Atlanta.
Baseball can require a short memory at times, but hopefully not one so short as to cause you to forget what happened the last time these two righties tangled. In short, it wasn’t pretty for the Braves, who lost by a 7-4 score. Gausman allowed all seven Pittsburgh runs across five frames, including two homers. On the plus side, at least he didn’t walk anyone? By essentially every account, it was one of his two worst starts of the year — and, more ominously, his other worst start was the one right before it (eight runs in an inning-plus against the Nationals). Suffice to say, Gausman’s never had a two-start stretch as poor as this one, and it doesn’t get any easier for him as he has to face the same squad that tattooed him for an insane .495 xwOBA-against for a second consecutive time.
Musgrove, meanwhile, was the beneficiary of both his teammates’ offensive outburst and a fairly soporific set of Atlanta bats. Musgrove’s results in the game are somewhat misleading — while he allowed three runs, two of which came on solo homers, he had the game well in hand and only yielded the dingers after being allowed to start the ninth and face the top of Atlanta’s order a fourth time. Even with the homers, he managed just a .297 xwOBA-against in the outing, though like Gausman, his road gets somewhat tougher having to face the same offensive squad again in consecutive outings.
On the year, Gausman now holds a bizarre 141 ERA- / 95 FIP- / 106 xFIP- line. His xwOBA-against is a perfectly fine .319, but a .342 wOBA-against suggests some terrible ball-in-play luck (22nd-worst among the 159 pitchers with 150+ batters faced in 2019). Beyond that, Gausman has a 58.4 percent strand rate on the year, 10th-lowest among all starters with 20 or more innings so far in 2019... which is basically the same as Musgrove’s 58.6 percent rate, and a big reason as to why Musgrove’s 105 ERA- is so far above his 89 FIP- (his xFIP-, however, is 107, so go figure). After two brutal starts, Musgrove was able to turn around his fortunes and defeat the Braves, so here’s hoping Gausman can do the same tonight.
In general, the Pirates aren’t too different than when the Braves first tangled with them last week. They made a bunch of roster moves over the weekend, adding Corey Dickerson, Jung-Ho Kang, and Michael Feliz to the club and casting off Rookie Davis (IL), Nick Kingham (DFA), and Cole Tucker (Triple-A). Still, they’re fourth in place in the NL Central, and have won just one series since May 21, which, you guessed it, came against the Braves last week. While the Braves swept the Marlins, the Pirates got swept by the Brewers, allowing 20 runs over the three-game weekend set.
Pittsburgh Pirates @ Atlanta Braves
Monday, June 10, 2019
7:20 pm EDT
SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: XM 187 (Streaming 841)