After taking a day off following a successful weekend against the Pirates, the Atlanta Braves are back in business and back on the road as well. They’re in Boston to renew something that feels like an annual interleague rivalry with the Red Sox.
The last time the Braves were in Fenway Park, they caught the Red Sox at a really good time. 2020 was a down year for Boston and the Braves took full advantage of a Red Sox team that was just happy to get to the final month of the season. Here in 2021, things have changed dramatically as far as the Red Sox are concerned. The Red Sox currently have the fourth-best record in baseball and it’s a real testament to the quality of the AL East that they’re still half-a-game out of first place and only a game ahead of third place at the moment. So I would imagine that a repeat sweep in Fenway for the Braves would be a massive achievement this time around.
The man getting the ball to start the game for Boston will be Garrett Richards, who is in a pretty familiar position when it comes to his individual performance. Last season, Richards tossed 51.1 innings, had an xERA of 4.58, an xFIP of 4.46, an 8.06 K/9 and 0.7 fWAR. This season, Richards has thrown 48.1 innings, has an xERA of 4.37, an xFIP of 4.31, an 8.01 K/9 and 0.7 fWAR. Basically, what you see is currently what you get with Garrett Richards, but he’s also had to do some heavy lifting in his past five starts in order to get to that point of relative consistency. Aside from a seven inning stint where the Orioles dinged him for eight hits and four runs, Richards has been pretty solid for the Red Sox over that span of five appearances and the Red Sox have come away with the win in four of those starts — including the four-run appearance for Richards.
Something that’s happened for Garrett Richards over those five starts is that his velocity has gone up a tick. During his first three starts, his fastball was sitting in the 93 mph range. Ever since his start on April 27 against the Mets, his fastball velocity has gone up to 94 mph and it was even averaging 95 mph back on May 13. He clearly took a few starts to ramp things up and now that he’s there, he figures to be a bit of a formidable opponent for Braves batters tonight.
Meanwhile, Charlie Morton will be heading back to the mound for the Braves after what was a pretty successful start for him during his last time out. I’d argue that his start against the Mets last week was his best start of the season, and it came at a time when the Braves really needed something good to happen for their pitching staff. Granted, all of that hard work was almost immediately nullified thanks to the bullpen having another adventure after Morton left that game, but that’s another story for another time. The point is that Morton is hopefully starting to get back on track, here. He has yet to string together two really good starts, and now would be a great time for him to do so. Morton did okay against the Red Sox last season but again, this current Red Sox team figures to be quite different from the one that roamed Fenway Park last season.
With all that being said about the pitching, I would not be shocked if this game turned into a slugfest. The Braves are currently leading baseball in Isolated Power as a team (.206), while the Red Sox aren’t that far behind in third place (.186). Boston is fourth in wRC+ with a mark of 111, which is seven points ahead of where the tenth-place Braves are in that category. The Braves have five batters who have a Barrel% that is in Statcast’s red range (Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson), and so do the Red Sox (Rafael Devers, Bobby Dalbec, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Hunter Renfroe). Both of these teams have some strong potential to mash and again, it wouldn’t be shocking if this did end up being a high-scoring affair tonight.
It should be really intriguing to see exactly where the Braves are at right now as they begin play in this final full week of May. Was the Pirates series just an example of a decent team beating up on a really bad team? Or was it the spark that will boost the Braves as they look to compete against a good team in the form of the Red Sox? It’s an intriguing set of questions and hopefully we’ll have some good answers once the night is said and done.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, May 25, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network