After losing the first two games of a home series to a barely-there Mets roster, the Braves are going to have to figure something out fairly quickly if they want to stay alive in the playoff chase. Yes, it’s “only” May, but the Pit of Despair is now more present than looming, and if you can’t get wins against your biggest impediment to a playoff spot when their roster is way, way more diminished than yours, when can you? That’s a question the Braves will hopefully divine an answer to tonight as they try to avoid a sweep, and repeatedly afterwards.
Starting for Atlanta will be Charlie Morton, who probably has a lot of questions of his own to hurl heavens-ward. Morton’s actually pitched pretty well, with a 102 FIP- and a 92 xFIP-, but he currently has his lowest strand rate, second-highest HR/FB rate allowed, and third-highest BABIP-against ever, so he has a 125 ERA- to show for his decent pitching. He’s been great the first time through a lineup (2.12 FIP, 2.06 xFIP, sub-.300 wOBA-against), decent a second time (the 25 percent HR/FB stands out), and just purely awful the third time through (more walks than strikeouts), yet the Braves haven’t seemed particularly keen on changing his usage.
Across his eight outings, he’s:
- Given up the tie and the lead the third time through once
- Given up the lead the third time through once
- Allowed run(s) the third time through without giving up the lead twice (in one, the lead was given up due to a hit by the pitcher earlier in the same inning)
- Not allowed a run the third time through thrice
- Gotten obliterated to the point where he didn’t make it out of the first once
That three-to-seven “hey it’s worked out okay” ratio is not great.
A huge source of Morton’s struggles so far have been related to his cutter, which has had the “amoeba” problem you might remember from when Mike Foltynewicz had it afflict his slider in the first part of 2019. Morton doesn’t throw his cutter very often, but its inconsistent shape has resulted in it being absolutely crushed at times, while giving the other team free balls at others. But, it’s hard to say that the cutter has really been a problem given its infrequent usage, Morton’s returned fastball velocity, the continued good work of his curveball, and so on. No, like his teammates, Morton has just been mired in misery he can’t fully control, and hung out to dry by poor tactical decisions otherwise. Like his teammates, and us, we’ll just all hope the worm starts to turn today.
Morton’s mound opponent will be David Peterson, who has actually had a similar pretty similar to Morton’s (and the Braves overall) so far. The pitching triple-slash easily illuminates why: 129 ERA-, 109 FIP-, 77 xFIP-. In short, Peterson’s been killing it, striking out nearly 30 percent of the batters he’s faced to give him a K%-BB% of over 20 percent despite a high walk rate. But, he’s also been killed by a crazy-high HR/FB and a low strand rate, so hey, we probably don’t need to rehash this story again. None of Peterson’s pitches stand out, and he’s not averse to walking guys, but the total package has mostly worked so far (but for the stuff he can’t control).
Delving beyond the summary, Peterson’s 2021 experience has been very erratic. He’s had two wonderful outings, including a 10/0 K/BB ratio start where he allowed just a solo homer in six frames to the Phillies, and his most recent outing, where he pitched into the eighth allowing just two runs and a 9/2 K/BB ratio against the Rays. But, he’s also been some combination of inefficient and shelled, such that he’s lasted four innings or fewer, in three of his seven tries so far. At this point, after struggling with essentially two bullpen games by the Mets, what the Braves are going to do offensively is as much driven by them as any opposing hurler, so we’ll just see what happens.
Peterson beat the Braves in his last start against them last year, putting up a 10/4 K/BB ratio while allowing just a solo homer from Adam Duvall. He previously lost a game, his second career start, to them earlier in the season, when he allowed three runs despite an 8/1 K/BB ratio in six innings in early August. In that game, Johan Camargo took him deep, and he walked in a run with his lone base on balls as well. Morton last faced the Mets in 2017, when he was an Astro, missing them entirely last season.
New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
7:20 pm EDT
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: Ch. 187