Hello, everyone. Do you remember back in early December 2019 when we were in a blissful state of holiday cheer, the pandemic was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind in the United States, and the Braves had just got done signing Cole Hamels on a deal? It’s now mid-September and we are finally going to see Hamels pitch a game for the Braves. It’s really going to happen. He’s not going to be out there for a long time this evening, but hopefully it’s a good time for the Braves.
Indeed, Cole Hamels is probably only going to throw around 55-60 pitches. As Ken Rosenthal noted in this article for The Athletic ($), he’s basically going to be using the end of this regular season to build up his arm for the postseason. While the Braves don’t have the socially-distanced celebration ready to go in case they do hold on to win the division, they’re definitely fortunate to be in a position where they can do something like give a veteran hurler a September debut and get away with him only having a brief stint before handing it over to the bullpen to hopefully finish the job.
Additionally, Cole Hamels is going to have a very low bar to clear in order to help the Braves out as a starter. It’s been well-documented just how much of a struggle it’s been for Braves starters to avoid getting demolished by the opposing batters, and things are to the point where Huascar Ynoa’s four innings of shutout ball against Baltimore last night was by far his best start. Even that came with an unfortunate caveat, so the goal for Hamels tonight is a simple one: Avoid calamity on the box score and in terms of health as well. If Hamels can mark his return to the mound with simply a decent outing, the Braves will probably be thrilled with that production.
Baltimore’s starting pitcher for the night will be Keegan Akin. He’s going to try to bounce back from a rough outing against the Yankees last week. New York scored four runs off of him on their way to a 10-1 win that night. Interestingly enough, he only surrendered three hits in that one — which was the exact number of hits he gave up in each of his previous two starts for Baltimore. Both of those starts ended up going well for Akin, as he kept the opposition completely off of the scoreboard for both of those outings. That’s to say that Akin may have gotten incredibly unlucky against the Yankees in his last start (and a BABIP of .600 bears that out) and that the Braves should still keep their focus as this pitcher has a chance of returning to form this evening at Camden Yards.
With that being said, Atlanta’s offense has been cruising as of late. They’ve had instances where they’ll get shut out or even score just one run (like they did during that unfortunate game on Monday), but the normal state of this Braves lineup is one of constant production from the top to the bottom. Adam Duvall hitting 10 home runs during this month alone is the simplest proof of that. The biggest example has to be the performance of Freddie Freeman as of late. If you take a mosey on over to the FanGraphs WAR leaderboards, Freddie is just 0.1 fWAR behind Fernando Tatis Jr. for the overall lead in all of baseball. Additionally, he’s second among qualified batters in OBP, wOBA, and wRC+, he’s the league leader in OPS+ and he’s sitting on a 31-game on-base streak. Simply put, Freddie Freeman is doing some big-time raking at the moment and if he can keep this up from now until the 27th, he’s going to have a strong argument for being the NL MVP — in a year where he was seriously ill from COVID-19. The mind boggles.
#Braves 1B Freddie Freeman's numbers and #MLB ranks during his current 31-game on-base streak (since 8/11):— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) September 16, 2020
.397 AVG (1st)
.511 OBP (1st)
.716 SLG (2nd)
1.227 OPS (1st)
46 H (4th)
13 2B (3rd)
8 HR (20th)
34 RBI (3rd)
27 R (8th)
25 BB (3rd)
.216 wRC+ (1st)
2.4 fWAR (1st) pic.twitter.com/PKFKv6bGwM
However, Freddie Freeman can’t do it all on his own and fortunately, he’s received a massive amount of help from the rest of the lineup regulars when it comes to offensive performance. Their collective efforts have been one of the main factors keeping the Braves in the lofty position that they’re currently in when it comes to the division and hopefully there will come a time when the Braves can somehow figure out their starting pitching in time for them to actually help out the offense a little bit more. Either way, the Braves will have to find a way to keep things rolling against Keegan Akin and the Orioles if they want to leave Baltimore with a series victory. You never want to drop September series against teams with losing records, so it’s imperative that Cole Hamels can give the team something tonight and that the Braves get out of there tonight with the win.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, September 16, 7:35 p.m. EST
Location: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network