After sweeping the franchise owned by Ronald Acuna Jr., the Atlanta Braves head north to “Freddie’s Funhouse” to take on the franchise Freddie Freeman inherited ownership of from Chipper Jones earlier this decade. After splitting a series with the Marlins two weekends ago, Atlanta has responded with series wins of the Dodgers and these same Mets, along with the sweep over Miami. The funny thing about baseball is that you usually only get a night to enjoy success. This is especially true for the Braves, as they face a familiar and formidable opponent this Friday in the person of one Jacob deGrom.
Atlanta has gone 8-2 over their 10 games since the Miami Meltdown against the Marlins, and the reason why may be surprising. While it has only been a little under two weeks, it seems the Braves starting staff and bullpen are finally succeeding at the same time. Since August 10th, the Braves staff as a whole is ninth in ERA, second in FIP, and fourth in xFIP in the majors. Positive regression, as expected, has played a part in the better overall numbers. However, in terms of what the Braves’ pitchers can control, they have been one of the most effective staffs in the majors since the beginning of August.
It could not have come at a better time, as the Braves were able to win series against the hottest team in the majors (at that time) in the Mets and the National League’s best team, the Dodgers. Along with the stellar pitching, the Braves have received timely contributions from unexpected sources, such as Rafael Ortega, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Matt Joyce. While the Braves certainly are not at their peak with all of the injuries that have occurred, they are playing their best baseball of the second half.
Of course, no matter how good things may be going, facing and beating Jacob deGrom is one of the hardest tasks in baseball at the moment. While he was simply excellent in the first half of 2019, deGrom has been 2018 levels of dominant since the All-Star Break. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings in the second half, deGrom is first in ERA, second in FIP and third in WAR. Even though the Braves have had success against him in the win column, this Mets team is arguably better than those over the past few years. This arguably could be the Braves toughest test so far this season with how deGrom is currently pitching.
And yet, this is nothing new for Mike Foltynewicz and the Braves. In his last start, despite the “one big inning” in the first, Foltynewicz battled current Cy Young frontrunner Hyun-jin Ryu in a game the Braves eventually won. While his August numbers (5.06 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 4.52 xFIP) still are high compared to 2018, Foltynewicz has looked significantly better in terms of velocity and control, validated by a 10.69 K/9 rate and 3.94 BB/9. Foltynewicz may not regain his 2018 form this year, but he certainly is better now than what he was even a month ago.
No doubt, the Braves will be the underdog tonight, and need to play like one. As mentioned above, the Braves could get a big boost from the bottom of their lineup producing. If any hitters in the bottom half of the lineup can get on base for Acuna Jr. and others, the Braves could get a timely hit or two to produce a few runs against deGrom. A successful approach to achieve that could be attacking the first pitch. Batters have produced an OPS of 1.000 when hitting the first pitch of the at-bat against deGrom and an OPS of .884 when making contact with a 1-0 count. While the Braves have had plenty of success being patient this year, they need to be proactive and prepared tonight to attack if they get a good first pitch to hit.
WPA-Neg deGrom- I in no way feel this will actually be the case, but psychological warfare is always encouraged!
BTFM! (no, this time there is no creativity, I mean for it to be obvious)
Game Date/Time: Friday,August 23rd, 7:10 pm EST
Location: Citi Field Flushing, New York
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network