After having themselves a pretty successful weekend series against the defending World Series champions, the Atlanta Braves are now travelling to Philadelphia to renew hostilities with their divisional rivals as they take on the Phillies.
Drew Smyly is going to be getting the ball for the Braves to start tonight’s game and at the risk of sounding like a bit of a doom-and-gloom type of fan, this is a situation that has the potential for disaster. For starters, the Phillies have already gotten well-acquainted with Smyly earlier this season — Philadelphia hit two dingers against him back on April 11 and scored five runs over five innings during that start. That game was in Cobb County but this game will take place at Citizens Bank Park, which is a ballpark that can get very small if you are prone to giving up long balls like Smyly has been doing this season.
Then there’s just the usage and deployment of Drew Smyly in general. Basically, if Smyly can get through Philadelphia’s batting order twice without something catastrophic happening, the Braves would actually be better off trusting the rest of the game to the bullpen. Whenever Smyly has been allowed to face the opposing lineup for the third time in a game, it hasn’t ended well for him. He’s thrown 9.1 innings where he’s gone through the order for a third time and opposing hitters are slugging .595 with an wOBA of .415 with an 8.68 ERA and three homers allowed in that situation. This would be the part where I’d compare his performance this year to what happened last year, but Smyly only threw one (1) inning where he was facing the opposing lineup for the third time during the entire 60-game 2020 season. That had a lot to do with his success last season and if the Braves want him to come close to that, then limiting his time on the mound would be key.
On the other side of things Braves will have to contend with Aaron Nola for the third time this season, already. While the Braves have actually done pretty well against Nola here in 2021 (they’ve scored seven runs on Nola over 10.2 innings with three home runs), there’s always a possibility that Nola could pull a solid start out of the hat against the Braves. With that being said, Nola is mired in a bit of a rough patch. His last start against the Braves back on May 9 was the start of a five-start stretch where he’s given up 16 earned runs (17 overall) over 26.2 innings pitched — good for a 5.40 ERA and a 4.42 FIP over that span. To put that in comparison, Drew Smyly has tossed 27.2 innings over five starts since May 6 and Smyly has surrendered 14 earned runs (15 overall) and has a 4.55 ERA and 4.77 FIP over that span. So needless to say, it’s been a tough time for both of these starters and it’s going to be a case of someone having to find a way to break out of what’s been a prickly patch.
This is going to be a real test of the old baseball cliche that states that “Momentum is only as strong as the next day’s pitcher.” Both of these teams are coming off of some pretty successful weekends — the Phillies picked up a series win within the division at the expense of the Nationals, while the Braves took two-out-of-three against the Dodgers in their most recent three-game series. One team is going to see the good times keep on rolling, while another team is likely going to be wondering when their respective starting pitcher is going to get things back on track. Here’s hoping it’s Drew Smyly and the Braves celebrating a win this evening.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, June 8, 7:05 p.m. ET
Location: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network