The themes for the 2021 season for the Atlanta Braves seem to be injuries and ineffectiveness. Several key contributors have had their season interrupted due to small but bothersome ailments, while others have not started the season as they had hoped. A bit of regression was expected for many after a highly productive end to the 2020 season. Unfortunately, there have been a few more struggles than successes so far this season.
A bit of bad luck has also played its part, as in 12 of the Braves first 17 games, the final score has been separated by three runs or less. The Braves bullpen, while not disastrous, is currently 19th in the majors in FIP and 27th in walks. That is not highly encouraging with several late game scenarios so far this season. More specifically, the Braves have been outscored 7-2 in the eighth inning this season mainly due to Atlanta allowing 13 walks in that inning alone, tied for most in the majors. Last night’s game against the Yankees was perhaps the most egregious example of Atlanta’s struggles in that inning. The Braves had hoped that role would be filled by Chris Martin; obviously, due to a shoulder ailment, he is not currently an option and its not currently known when he will be available.
A big boost to the Braves would be consecutive strong starts from their starters. Charlie Morton was highly effective last night, and Atlanta’s hope is that Ian Anderson can do the same tonight. Anderson was strong in his first outing of the year against the Phillies; however, he has struggled a bit since his season debut. Over his last two starts, spanning 10 1⁄3 innings, Anderson has allowed 11 hits, two home runs, and seven earned runs while producing 12 strikeouts to five walks. Though the Braves did win both games, the hope for tonight is that Anderson could be closer to how he looked in his first start. Another big development would be if he could earn a quality start by going six or more innings.
Oh the mound for the Yankees will be former two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. While Kluber certainly is one of the best pitchers of his generation, it has been quite a while since he has displayed that level of effectiveness. Since 2018, Kluber has made just 11 starts, totaling 47 innings. Over three starts and 10 1⁄3 innings this season, Kluber has allowed 16 hits, 10 earned runs, and produced 12 strikeouts compared to seven walks. The Yankees are likely being a bit cautious with Kluber due to his recent injury history. However, such as they did on Sunday night, a hot start from the Braves is certainly possible tonight, and would be a welcome development to take a bit of pressure off of their pitching.
Similar to two weeks ago when the Braves played a double header against the Nationals, a win tonight would be the difference between being two and four games under .500. That may not seem that significant this early in the season, but overcoming two games to get to .500 instead of four is a relevant difference. Brighter days are certainly ahead for the Braves, but a bit of momentum certainly would help. Hopefully, the Braves can get some key hits from unexpected sources tonight to get a big win to make tomorrow’s off day more enjoyable.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 at 6:35 EST
Location: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network