The Atlanta Braves enter play on Wednesday with a .500 record after a win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. The club has battled through a number of obstacles to reach this plateau, though their hardships may have resurfaced on Tuesday when Marcell Ozuna dislocated two fingers while sliding into third base. Obviously, losing Ozuna for any length of time would hamper the lineup considerably. Hopefully the diagnosis will allow the 30-year-old to rejoin the lineup very soon.
For the game tonight, the Braves will turn to Drew Smyly as they look to leave Boston with a two-game sweep. The left-hander began the season with a tough stretch, but has seen considerable improvement in his past three starts. A 2-2 record with a 5.11 ERA looks bad at first glance, but Smyly has allowed just four earned runs and a .219 opponents batting average over his past three starts, covering 18 innings.
Smyly relies on three pitches: a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a cutter. Of the three, only the curveball has been a good offering in 2021. Smyly has allowed an xwOBA of .389 against the fastball and a whopping .679 against the cutter. Those pitches have garnered better results of late, but they will need to continue the upward trend if Smyly is to find prolonged success.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Nick Pivetta, with whom the Braves are very familiar from his time in Philadelphia. The Red Sox acquired Pivetta in exchange for relief help going to the Phillies last season, and thus far it has been a fruitful deal for Boston. Pivetta currently owns a 5-0 record with a 3.59 ERA while striking out 50 batters in 47.2 innings.
Like Smyly, Pivetta operates with three essential pitches: a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a curveball. The curveball has produced a .389 xwOBA for opposing batters, but the other two offerings are at or below .300. Based on these numbers, Atlanta will need to punish the right-hander’s curveball when the opportunity arises.
With a .500 record, the Braves are now just one game out of first place in the division and appear to be slowly rounding into form. A sweep at Fenway would set the club up nicely for their upcoming road series against the Mets. That trip could put the Braves in first place, which would be a monumental feat given how poorly they have seemingly played to this point, relative to their potential.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, May 26, 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