The Braves are off to New York for a quick two-game set with Yankees. The two clubs enter play on Tuesday having struggled out of the gate, with Atlanta (7-9) and New York (5-10) each disappointing relative to pre-season expectations. We are less than three weeks into the season, however, which means both teams will have plenty of time to right the ship. Yankees fans littering the field with baseballs after a recent loss to the Rays may hint that things are a little tense in the Bronx, but the Braves will gladly dodge the wreckage if it means Atlanta can continue its ascent.
Taking the ball for the Braves in game one will be Charlie Morton, who has been wildly unlucky to begin the season. He enters play with a 1-1 record and 4.76 ERA, but just a 2.62 FIP and 2.97 xFIP. A .381 opponents BABIP may be partially to blame, as much of the weak contact induced by Morton thus far has been rewarded with tough luck hits. This is also highlighted by the fact that Morton has 21 strikeouts in just 17 innings, meaning he is limiting contact as well, but still being burned when the ball is put in play. His hard-hit rate is hovering around 35%, which is well above his career norms, but that could be attributed to a small sample size. It does marry with his rate from last season, which could become a concern if it persists.
Something will have to give on Wednesday, as the Yankees have been among the worst offenses in baseball thus far. Their batting line as a team is just .210/.296/.346, though some of the blame could be cast upon their .259 team BABIP, which ranks 27th in baseball. There have certainly been some notable struggles throughout their vaunted lineup, but some positive regression seems likely in the near future. The Braves just have to hope it can wait until after they leave town.
The Atlanta offense will be tasked with solving Jameson Taillon, whose first impression with the Yankees has been really ugly. The right-hander enters play with an 0-1 record and a 7.56 ERA. Blaming this on bad luck doesn’t exactly hold water, as he also carries a 6.09 FIP. Simply put, Taillon has been awful in his first two starts, which is made even more clear when looking at his 50% hard-hit rate. Again, small samples can be misleading, but that looks really bad.
Both clubs could benefit from a solid showing this week, though New York appears to be receiving much more pressure from the community than Atlanta. Keeping the powerful Yankees at bay for at least two more games would serve the Braves well, and getting a solid start without any batted-ball shenanigans would be a welcome sight from Charlie Morton. The Braves will also be monitoring the health of Ronald Acuña this week as he looks to bounce back from an abdominal strain that forced him to leave the game on Sunday. A healthy Acuña would certainly help as the Braves look to weather the early-season injuries that have sidelined so many of their key contributors thus far.
The series will only consist of two games, but the Braves could leave the Bronx riding high with a good showing over the next two days. Let’s hope Charlie Morton can kick things off right with a gem tonight.