It has been quite a week for the Atlanta Braves.
On Sunday, new acquisition Tommy Milone nearly ruined a ten-run second inning offensive outburst from the Braves against the Phillies, a game the Braves managed to hang onto and win 12-10. Monday was filled with some disappointment and hope, as while the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline surprisingly did not lead to any new additions to the Braves besides Milone, both Max Fried and Austin Riley quickly reminded everyone of the immense talent currently on Atlanta’s roster.
Fortunately, those good vibes continued into Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning with another strong outing from Ian Anderson. However, the highlights of the week came from the history making performances of Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall, as they became the second pair of teammates in baseball history to hit three home runs in consecutive days, and the first duo to do it in back-to-back games. A few names you may have heard of before, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, are the other duo referenced above.
Though added reinforcements from another trade or two may have added benefit, the Braves are certainly playing well and showing why they definitely are among the best teams chasing the Dodgers in the National League. However, before the NL Pennant can be the sole focus, Atlanta must first remain focused on the NL East. While the Braves have now won four straight, the Phillies have as well. As a result, they have actually gained on the Braves in the standings, with Atlanta 2 1⁄2 games ahead with 40% of the season left.
The main reason for the Braves success continues to be the outstanding work of their bullpen and the continued improvement of the offense. In particular, the return of Chris Martin, emergence of Austin Riley, and return to dominance of Ozuna have all allowed Atlanta to over come the struggles of the rotation so far. The amazing thing is that the Braves offense continues to be highly productive despite missing both Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies.
Fortunately, Acuna Jr. will be making his return after a brief absence due to hamstring discomfort last Sunday. Though he struggled out of the gate, Acuna Jr. has returned to form when he has played over the past few weeks. With several games against NL East opponents in the near future, having his bat return in front of Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, and Ozuna will be a tremendous boost. Hopefully, Albies will be available soon himself.
Of course, as amazing as the Braves offense can be, it also can go through its cold streaks, and that is when the lack of reliable starters becomes an exposed weakness. Due to several other options simply not working out, the Braves will look to a pair of seasoned veterans to navigate and limit the Nationals lineups a time or two (NO MORE THAN THAT!) on Friday.
Tommy Milone’s season ERA skyrocketed nearly two full runs after his performance against the Phillies last Sunday, but a 4.09 xFIP suggests things may not be as bad moving forward. He continued to throw strikes, though the Phillies had no problem making had contact. The hope for Milone is to keep the ball in the ballpark and utilize his pitch sequencing so that his changeup remains highly effective.
To keep the Nationals honest, the Braves will send Milone out again for Game 2, except this time he will throw right handed and be referred to as Josh Tomlin. Humor aside, the similarities between Tomlin and Milone can be eye opening at times, and as seen in their starts against the Phillies, neither has a lot of room for error. For Tomlin, finding success with his secondary offerings to compliment his cutter needs to be the focus. Both Milone and Tomlin have to be on point with their location.
Fortunately, the National starters have been just as bad this year, as while the Braves are 28th in starter’s ERA this season, the Nationals are 27th. The big difference is that the Braves bullpen and offense have been near the top of the league, while the Nationals hitters and relievers have been near the middle of the pack. With the Nationals starting Austin Voth and Will Crowe today, the Braves offense should have the opportunities to continue producing, especially with Acuna Jr. back and Crowe making just his second major league start.
The key for Atlanta should be simple: take advantage of offensive opportunities and do not let anyone not named Turner or Soto have an outstanding day. If Milone and Tomlin can make it through the lineup twice each game, the shortened games should heavily favor Atlanta’s pen. Hopefully, Atlanta can get an early lead in both games and earn a few more needed victories as they get closer to October.
Game 1-Friday, September 4th, 4:10 EST
Game 2- Friday, September 4th, 30-45 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Networkories as they get closer to the playoffs.
UPDATE: Friday, September 4th, 1:22 EST
In today’s media session, Brian Snitker stated he and his staff have made a few changes to the weekend layout when it comes to their starting pitchers.
#Braves are starting Huascar Ynoa in Game 2 of today's doubleheader. Josh Tomlin pushed to Sunday. Ian Anderson will have his next start on Monday, giving him an extra day of rest.— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) September 4, 2020
Huascar Ynoa will start game two versus the Nationals tonight, with Josh Tomlin moving back to Sunday. Max Fried is still scheduled to take the mound tomorrow, but Ian Anderson will now move to Monday for his next start. In a season where Anderson has become more important than anyone likely expected, Atlanta will give special focus to his workload and appearances in preparation for the playoffs