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Braves go for sweep amidst Round 2 of Keuchel-Matz

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A battle of two southpaws on strong runs as the Braves attempt to make it eight victories in a row.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Braves last played the Mets in mid-August and won two of three from the Amazins in Atlanta, slowing down a resurgent unit that currently sits just two games out of the second NL Lightning Round spot. This weekend, the venue has changed, but a lot has stayed the same: the Braves have already won the series, they won their second Max Fried v. Zach Wheeler matchup in August last night, and this afternoon, Dallas Keuchel will again duel Steven Matz.

If the Braves are able to garner the same result in today’s repeat matchup as they did on August 14, they’ll no doubt gladly take it. In that game, Keuchel edged Matz, as both hurlers departed after six frames with the Braves holding a 1-0 lead. The Atlanta bullpen yielded two runs as soon as Keuchel’s night was done, but the Braves immediately roared back with five runs to retake the lead, and held on through a dicey ninth inning that saw Jerry Blevins relieve Mark Melancon and strike out Michael Conforto for the game’s final out.

For Keuchel, that game was the beginning of a mini-roll after one of the worst outings of his career the start prior: his intense drubbing at the hands of the Marlins. Keuchel held the Mets scoreless through six frames, allowing just five hits with a 7/2 K/BB ratio, in one of his best starts of the year. It’s been his only start so far that he’s kept the opposition entirely off the board. He followed that up with a much better performance against the same Marlins that crushed him, holding them to just a solo homer in six frames, again with a 7/2 K/BB ratio, this past Tuesday. If Keuchel can stymie the Mets again, it’ll be only the second time this season he’s strung together three effective starts in a row, as he’s been stung by sequencing, ball-in-play shenanigans, and the third time through the order here and there throughout the season.

On the year, Keuchel holds a 92 ERA-, 111 FIP-, and 86 xFIP-. His HR/FB is a gnarly 30 percent, which is by far the highest mark among any starter with 70 or more innings pitched in 2019 (the next-highest is Yu Darvish, at below 25 percent). Keuchel also has the lowest fly ball rate, highest grounder rate, and (obviously) by far the highest GB/FB rate among this set of starters, so the internal tension point is pretty well illuminated here: he’s generally fine, but the rare occasions where an opposing batter elevates a ball off of him have proven costly so far. Let’s hope for some HR/FB regression and a repeat of what Keuchel did to the Mets earlier this month.

Matz, too, is in the midst of his best run of the year in some respects — over his past three outings, he’s managed consecutive games with a Game Score (v2) above 50, the first time all year he’s done so in three or more straight starts (after doing so three times in 2018, including a four-start stretch that meets this criterion). Matz’ six innings of one-run ball in Atlanta came after a 6 23, two-run outing versus the Marlins, and was followed up by 6 13 innings of two-run (one earned) ball against Cleveland. Matz has now gone over a month where his worst K/BB ratio was 7/2, so if the Braves are going to do damage, they’ll probably need to do it on balls in play rather than waiting for Matz to walk the park.

For those keeping track, yes, this is already Matz’ fifth start against the Braves in 2019. They have gone as follows:

  • Two runs in six innings, 8/1 K/BB ratio in a 6-3 New York victory in April;
  • Five runs in five innings, 2/4 K/BB ratio, one of his worst starts of the year, 7-2 Braves win in June;
  • Rain-shortened two-inning, two-run outing later in June where the Braves won 5-4 after back-to-back game-tying and go-ahead homers in the eighth by Nick Markakis and Seth Lugo in late June;
  • The 6-4 come-from-behind Braves win earlier in August mentioned earlier in this post.

On the year, Matz has put together a bounceback campaign after two injury-plagued and ineffective seasons. While his 100 ERA-, 104 FIP-, and 96 xFIP- aren’t glamorous, they’ve been just fine in aggregate and Matz has had more good outings than bad ones, even if he does melt down here and there.

The Braves last swept the Mets during the first days of May last year in convincing fashion, outscoring them 21-2. They probably won’t quite rack up that same run differential in this one, but on paper, Keuchel-Matz is the best matchup the Braves have had in this series, so we’ll see what happens.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets

Sunday, August 25, 2019

1:10 pm EDT

Citi Field, New York, NY

TV: Fox Sports South, MLB.tv

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM