That is really the first word that comes to mind in terms of the Atlanta Braves. It has certainly been a disappointing season up to this moment. Injuries, ineffectiveness, questionable decisions, and several other factors have all played a part in the equation. However, if the Braves can simply improve in a few general areas, perhaps things can be different.
One is avoiding the Toronto Blue Jays. Fortunately, the schedule has made sure that wish is granted.
The other is to remember that a baseball game goes nine innings.
The Braves have to get better when it comes to their effectiveness and execution in the final three innings of regulation and beyond. Atlanta currently ranks 21st in the majors in both wOBA and wRC+ in terms offense from the 7th inning and later in games. Unfortunately, Atlanta also ranks 24th in BB/9 and 25th in xFIP when it comes to their pitching in the 7th inning and later in games as well. Overall, the Braves, with some bad luck included, are simply one of the worst teams in the majors late in games.
The issue is, while Pittsburgh may seem to be one of the easier series Atlanta will have on the schedule all year, the Pirates are actually 6th in BB/9 and 11th in xFIP from the 7th inning and beyond in games this year. The task for the Braves to right the ship in terms of their late game production is not going to be easy over the weekend.
The Pirates’ starter for tonight also will not make things too easy to begin the game as well. Tyler Anderson is having a bit of a career revival this season, as through eight starts, his fWAR value in 2021 (0.9) has nearly doubled his fWAR value in 2019 and 2020 combined (0.5). Over 46 1⁄3 innings, he has produced 14 walks compared to 44 strikeouts, and has produced ERA, FIP, and xFIP measures under four. While he certainly has been far from dominant, he has been both consistent and effective. The Braves can create chances tonight, but they must take advantage of them.
Tyler Anderson’s counterpart will be his own namesake in Ian Anderson. In eight starts this season, Anderson is 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA and 21 walks compared to 47 strikeouts over 45 innings. He has allowed one or less runs in half of his starts and three or more runs in the other half. Hopefully, Ian Anderson can continue his success against NL Central foes this year, as over 13 innings, he has allowed just one earned run against the Cubs and Brewers.
Straightforward, this series against the Pirates presented an opportunity for the Braves to continue the momentum from Ronald Acuna Jr.’s heroics on Wednesday night. Last night, they failed. A split or worse in this series would certainly be underwhelming, and the Braves are more than capable to win three in a row. However, the only way to start a winning streak is to first get one win. Hopefully, the Braves bats and bullpens will be ready to support Anderson to get a that victory.
Game Date/Time: Friday, May 21, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network