The Braves are, as one might say, rolling. They’re currently on a six-game winning streak, 10 games over .500 at 39-29, and all alone in first place in the NL East. Their playoff odds have increased from 58 percent to 77 percent during this winning streak, and were as low as 53 percent when the month of June began. They’ve scored seven or more runs in their last four games, as well as five of their last six, and not even a rain delay and a ninth-inning Josh Bell homer could dampen their offensive surge last night. So, you hope they’re still feeling energized after Ozzie Albies’ walkoff stroke last night (or, more accurately, this morning), because less than 12 hours after concluding one game, they’re set to play another.
Sweeps of the Pirates have been fairly ho-hum for this franchise recently — the last one was just last year. But, four-game sweeps of the Pirates? A rare find indeed: you need to go all the way back to 1991 for that feat, in a series that featured a doubleheader (Tom Glavine won Game 1) in late July (John Smoltz won Game 4). Still, even that series didn’t feature what this one will: the same opponent making his second start of the series.
Now, Joe Musgrove is part of a very unusual case, to be sure. Ejected from the game after a verbal-and-slightly-physical kerfuffle with Josh Donaldson in the series opener, Musgrove had only thrown a few pitches before his forced departure. As such, he should be good to make this start. As such, nothing has really changed about him since the last preview that featured his name. He has a weird 104 ERA- / 89 FIP - / 107 xFIP- line, with one of the lowest strand rates in baseball explaining the ERA-FIP gap. This will be his third straight start against the Braves (asterisk and all), and the Pirates will hope he can give their very weary bullpen a break like he did when he pitched into the ninth against the Braves in Pittsburgh last week.
The Braves have no such rotation shenanigans on tap for today, as Julio Teheran is the scheduled starter. Teheran has a killer 69 ERA-, but it comes with a 99 FIP-and 112 xFIP-. He has the 12th-highest strand rate among “qualified” starters and a top-30 strand rate among any starter with 20 or more innings this season. Combine that with his usual BABIP legerdemain and he has the sixth-biggest gap between his fWAR and RA9-WAR in baseball this year. (Not that this is anything new for him; among the 208 starters with the most innings thrown since the start of 2013, he’s second in this measure, behind only Zack Grienke, who has more than double his fWAR.) By far the wildest thing about his 2019 season so far is that he currently holds a seven-start homerless streak; before this span, he had never gone more than four games without yielding a homer, and he might straight-up double that today.
Teheran did not face the Pirates last week; his last start came against the Marlins and it was a good one, as he two-hit them through six scoreless frames with a 5/2 K/BB ratio in what was arguably his best outing of the season. He did, however, face the Pirates twice last year and had two of his best six starts or so of 2018 against them, throwing seven innings of one-run ball each time, with good 5/2 and 5/1 K/BB ratios (and also not allowing a homer in either start). While not really relevant to today’s contest, the last time Teheran had a bad start against Pittsburgh was 2016, and he also had one of his best starts ever against the Bucs in 2013 (eight innings, one hit, two walks, 11 strikeouts).
You’re probably too sleep-deprived to work effectively anyway, so come watch the Braves try to tally a second win in far less than 24 hours this afternoon.
Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves
Thursday, June 13, 2019
12:10 pm EDT
SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, MLB Network, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: XM 183 (Streaming 841)