Yesterday’s game, while frustrating, was bound to happen at some point. Bad luck, bad calls and the inability to execute scoring chances certainly contributed to the cause. Fatigue probably played a small part as well. The hope is that the Braves can regain their ability to execute as they visit Toronto. While the outcome was not ideal, the return of Dansby Swanson, who missed two home runs by literal inches, and the continued success of the Atlanta pitchers was certainly encouraging.
The Braves (80-53) and Blue Jays (53-80) may enter Tuesday’s game with significantly different records, but there are plenty of exciting similarities. Both teams now have a wonderful future ahead of them thanks to a phenom with the suffix of Jr. (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr.) Both teams also have a middle infield combination with All-Star level talent (Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio for the Blue Jays, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson for the Braves.) While they may be on a different spectrum currently in terms of being a contender, both franchises will be among the most exciting in baseball for years to come.
Logically, Guerrero Jr. is the main attraction on the Blue Jays roster due to his immense offensive potential. However, in terms of their debuts, one can easily argue that Bichette has made the bigger immediate impact. Before his debut on July 29th, the Blue Jays had produced a .710 OPS, .301 wOBA, and 85 wRC+ as a team, which ranked 27th, 26th, and 26th in those respective categories in the majors up to that date this year. Since Bichette’s debut, those improved to a .806 OPS, .336 wOBA, and 109 wRC+. which are good for 8th, 9th, and 8th in those respective categories over that time frame.
Overall, Bichette currently stands at a .351/.388/.684 production line after nearly a full month in the majors. While regression will come at some point, Bichette’s talent should not be downplayed. He is making an “Austin Riley in May” type impact on the Blue Jays, and the result is a top 10 offense in baseball. While the Blue Jays pitching staff has certainly struggled, their offense is one of the best in the majors currently. As a result, the Braves must execute often when they have the chance to score.
Thankfully, the Braves will send out their best option to minimize the Blue Jays production in Mike Soroka (2.41 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.84 xFIP). Today will likely be a special and memorable start for Soroka, as he returns home to Canada for the second time of his career. Soroka threw 4 2/3 innings in Toronto on June 19th, 2018 and allowed four earned runs and eight hits. While the Braves won 11-4 that day, it was a bittersweet homecoming for Soroka. Following that start, Soroka would be sidelined with shoulder pain that would keep him out of action for the rest of 2018. Fortunately, Soroka enters today’s game in a more positive fashion. With each start, Soroka continues to establish himself as a top candidate for the NL Cy Young and NL Rookie of the Year Awards.
With no official starter announced at this time, the Blue Jays could implement their own version of the “opener” strategy as they have done more frequently this month. Over the past week, Wilmer Font and Buddy Boshers have started a game for Toronto, only to be used for one inning. The Blue Jays would then utilize their bullpen based off match-ups with the opposing lineup. Of course, while this strategy may have an intended goal, its success relies mainly on the talent of the arms being used. The Blue Jays bullpen has produced a 5.99 xFIP over the past two weeks, the third worst mark in the majors over that time frame. The Braves lineup should have their chances to get runners on base. If they can improve their ability to execute with runners on from yesterday, there is a good chance they will win.
Obviously, with these two offenses involved, this game has the potential to get exciting quickly. Hopefully, any late August fireworks that occur will come from the Braves bats. Many hope that is especially true for Josh Donaldson, as he makes his return to Toronto for the first time since being traded away last August. Donaldson, of course, won the 2015 MVP award with the Blue Jays and arguably was the best offensive player in baseball during his time in Toronto (for anyone not named Trout). It will be fun to see the reaction the Toronto fans give Donaldson in his first plate appearance.
Another interesting development to keep an eye on is how Brian Snitker manages his bullpen and lineup. The Braves could really use another six to seven inning outing from Soroka, and Atlanta may look to get a regular or too some rest by putting them in the DH spot. While it should be expected that all the Atlanta regulars will play, the extra lineup spot for a hitter should be beneficial.
Regardless of how these minor details play out, the major goal should be the full focus. The Braves are currently in a stretch where they are playing sub .500 teams for the next seven games, including these same Blue Jays four times. With the Nationals next two series against the Orioles and Marlins, the pressure remains on Atlanta to win as many games as they can in which they are favored. The key difference between Atlanta and Toronto at the moment is that the Braves have been significantly better on the mound. If the Atlanta arms can remain effective, it could be a happy off day on Thursday.
WPA- Josh Donaldson - In his return to Toronto, Donaldson should have plenty of motivation to bring the rain down over the next two days.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, August 27th, 7:07 EST
Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
TV / Streaming : YouTube exclusive
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network