The Braves are back in action tonight against the Blue Jays, and the top-scoring team in all of Major League Baseball will be hoping to continue their onslaught of offense at the plate with another big night with the bats.
If that’s going to continue, then the Braves will have to find a way to make sure that Hyun Jin Ryu continues to struggle here in the early stages of the season. Ryu had a huge year in 2019 and turned that into a big free agent deal with the currently-marooned Blue Jays, but he’s stumbled out of the gate to start the 2020 season. The Rays gave him a rude welcome to the AL East and then the Nationals just compounded his struggles by hitting him up for nine hits and five runs back on July 30. Ryu rarely had anything like that happen to him during the 2019 campaign, but you could understand anybody associated with the Blue Jays stumbling out of the gate. As it turns out, it’s kind of difficult to actually operate as a professional sports team that’s stuck in a different country!
One thing to keep an eye on when it comes to Ryu is his velocity. The velocity on his four-seamer has dipped from the low 90s into the high 80s and there’s been some concern about this possibly being the main thing to explain what’s been a rough start to his 2020 campaign. It could just be that the 33-year-old hurler is just using the early stages of the season to work his way back to reaching his normal velocity, but it’ll be a huge concern for the Blue Jays if this is where he’s at for the time being.
It’s especially bad to be throwing with lower velocity if you have to deal with an offense like Atlanta’s, which is firing on all cylinders to start the season. After getting shut out on Opening Day, the Braves have scored at least two runs in every game since then. They’ve scored at least five runs in seven games, and they have proven that they have the ability to put up a crooked number at any given moment. They may also get a boost from having Ozzie Albies finally getting some time on the IL to heal his wrist, so they can get someone at second base who can swing a bat with some confidence instead of having Ozzie up there just trying to gut his way through an at-bat.
Another positive for the Braves is that Nick Markakis has been activated and he should be available for tonight’s game. When Markakis is fresh and used correctly, he’s a solid addition to an already potent lineup and the offense will have a boost having him out there. It’s not exactly moving from strength to strength as Ozzie’s high points as of right now are much higher than the veteran outfielder’s high points, but it’s still nice to have him out there if he’s fully healthy and ready to go for the Braves.
Anyways, the Braves offense is going to have to pull a lot of the weight considering the state of the rotation. Mike Soroka’s long-term injury was the absolute last thing that the team needed right now, which means that things are going to go one of two ways from this point forward: Either the bullpen and the bats are going to have to pull off the carry job of the century, or the other starting pitchers are going to have to grow up fast and start pulling their weight. Hopefully that starts tonight with Sean Newcomb, who is making his third start of the season.
The first two starts for Newcomb were shaky at best and just plain bad at worst. He’s shown tiny bit of flashes as to what he has the potential to be as a starter, but at this point with Newcomb, the narrative is a clear one: He has to find his command. There have been innings where Newcomb just can’t find the strike zone and he’s either been lucky to get out of those innings unscathed or the opposition has hit him hard. I’m not going to approach this with gloom-and-doom, as it would just be easy to say that the Braves are going to have to go out there and win this in spite of Newcomb since it’d be pretty difficult to say that Newcomb could fix this when this has been a struggle for him for the entirety of his career as a starter. However, he has had those nights where he puts it together and gives the Braves a chance to win just off the strength of his pitching arm alone. This isn’t a completely hopeless case, here!
So, the obvious hope is that tonight is one of those nights where everything clicks for Sean Newcomb and the Braves can extend Hyun Jin Ryu’s misery into another bad start. If that happens, then the Braves should have a really good chance of picking up yet another precious win in this shortened season. Atlanta has the offense to win just about any game, and now they need their pitching staff to help them out more than ever.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, August 5, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network