The Braves enter play against the Reds having split their most recent series against the Mets, leaving them three games under .500 and five games back in the NL East. With a hectic schedule and a barrage of injuries, this current state of the Atlanta rotation leaves much to be desired (hence the Kyle Wright start on Wednesday). This confluence of events necessitates a start from someone outside the box, and that’s exactly where the Braves went in tabbing Jesse Chavez to begin the game.
Chavez is a veteran right-hander who debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates way back in 2008, then found a home in Atlanta for half of the 2010 season. Over the past decade-plus, Chavez has found middling success while bouncing back-and-forth between the AL and NL. His best season came in 2018, when he finished with a 178 ERA+ in 62 appearances for the Cubs and Rangers. This past offseason, Chavez settled on a minor league deal with the Braves that seemed, at the time, unlikely to result in major league service time.
If Chavez fits a prototype, “junk-baller” would certainly seem to apply. He features five offerings, but primarily works off a sinker and cutter that each grade out as decent. Chavez will also utilize a slider on occasion, but primarily operates with the aforementioned two offerings. The right-hander would not likely find success in facing the Reds lineup multiple times, but if he can provide even two innings of solid work, the Braves would likely chalk it up as a success.
As for the Reds, they open with right-hander Tony Santillan. In two starts this season, Santillan has allowed four earned runs in 72⁄3 innings with eight strikeouts and five walks. Armed with a three-pitch mix, Santillan sits mid-90’s with his fastball, which he complements with a curveball and changeup. The fastball has been wildly ineffective thus far, with opponents managing a 0.415 xwOBA.
The Cincinnati offense has been among the best in the National League this season, boasting a .749 OPS that ranks them behind only the San Francisco Giants. Once reaching base, the Reds are very stationary, pulling up the rear with just 18 steals on the season. Their power and on-base skills have been the staple of the offense this season.
Every series is vital for the Braves at the moment, given their early-season struggles. Leaving New York with a split was slightly disappointing, but the club can right the ship in Cincinnati with greater consistency on the mound. Chipping away at the five game deficit is now the goal, and it begins tonight with a favorable matchup against Santillan.