After a frustrating series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Atlanta Braves will continue their homestand Monday when they begin a three-game series against the San Diego Padres. The series will continue a critical stretch for the Braves in the lead up to the Trade Deadline. Atlanta is currently 45-47 and four games back of the New York Mets in the NL East standings. The Phillies have waltzed up the division standings as well, and the Braves are now looking up at two teams, rather than just the Mets.
After losing Ronald Acuña Jr. for the season with a torn ACL, the Braves acquired outfielder Joc Pederson from the Cubs in exchange for first base prospect Bryce Ball. When talking about that move, President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos declared that the focus was to add to the roster, at least for now. The team traded for catcher Stephen Vogt two days later and the newcomers helped spark the offense with 22 runs in their series against Tampa Bay.
Pederson slotted into the leadoff spot and went 2-for-4 with a double in Sunday’s loss. Vogt made his Braves debut Sunday and went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. The duo is 7-for-14 with a homer since joining Atlanta.
Unfortunately, Atlanta lost two of three in the series despite holding late leads in all three games. A.J. Minter and Luke Jackson combined to allow four runs in the seventh on Sunday in a 7-5 loss. Minter allowed a run in 2/3 of an inning Friday and then Chris Martin was tagged for four hits and two runs in the eighth in a game that the Braves would go on to lose 7-6 in 10 innings.
Atlanta has held a lead in 22 of its 47 losses this season, which is the fourth most in the National League behind the Cubs, Phillies and Rockies. Atlanta is 40-10 when leading after six innings this season. Those 10 losses are tied with Arizona for the most in baseball. For context, the Braves were 27-0 when leading after six innings in 2020 and were 165-14 from 2018-20, which was the best mark in the National League.
It is something that the Braves need to find a solution for, but there are no easy answers. They will get a huge test against a Padres team that is 55-41 and is in third place in the powerhouse NL West. San Diego is second in the National League in runs scored and third in wRC+. The Padres took two of three in Washington but suffered a walk-off loss on Sunday.
San Diego’s bullpen has been solid for most of the season, but their starters have struggled of late due to injury and some underperformance. They will likely be among the teams looking for starting pitching at the trade deadline.
Monday, July 19, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Yu Darvish (18 GS, 105.0 IP, 29.8 K%, 5.7 BB%, 3.09 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, 78 ERA-)
The Padres are expected to activate Yu Darvish from the injured list Monday to start in the series opener. Darvish was placed on the injured list on July 11 due to hip inflammation just three days after the Nationals tagged him for eight hits and six runs in just three innings. He has allowed 14 hits and 10 runs in his last nine innings spanning two July starts. Darvish has faced the Braves four times and hasn’t had much luck allowing 22 hits and 13 runs in 17 2/3 innings in his career against Atlanta.
The Braves haven’t announced who will start Monday’s game but it will likely be Kyle Muller or Bryse Wilson. Both last pitched at Gwinnett on July 14 and would be on regular rest. Muller started that game and allowed one hit, two walks and struck out four over four scoreless innings. Wilson took over from there and allowed five hits and one run over the final five innings. Muller seems to be the favorite given his performance before the All-Star break where he has a 2.45 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
Tuesday, July 20, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
The Padres have yet to announce their pitching plans for Tuesday’s game. Rookie Rheiss Knehr, who started a game for San Diego in their final series before the All-Star Break, would be on regular rest for this game, though he’d need to be called up from the minors again and struggled in his MLB debut, walking four and lasting just 3 2/3 innings.
Touki Toussaint (Triple-A: 4 GS, 16.2 IP, 35.2 K%, 15.5 BB%, 4.32 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.32 xFIP)
Touki Toussaint will make his 2021 debut in Tuesday’s game. Toussaint was placed on the 60-day injured list at the end of Spring Training with a shoulder injury. He recently completed a rehab assignment with four starts at Gwinnett where he showed some promise despite persistent control issues as his 15.5 percent walk rate evinces. Toussaint hasn’t had a lot of success at the Major League level but has a chance here to stick in the rotation with Ian Anderson out with a shoulder injury.
Wednesday, July 21, 12:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
San Diego hasn’t announced their starter for this game either but Chris Paddack started Friday and would be in line to make this start on normal rest.
Charlie Morton (19 GS, 105.0 IP, 27.7 K%, 8.2 BB%, 3.69 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, 89 ERA-)
Morton will make his second post All-Star break start in Wednesday’s series finale. Morton allowed six hits and three runs over six innings against the Rays. He struck out eight and walked three and left the game with the lead but the bullpen was unable to hold it. Morton has been Atlanta’s best starter this season and they will need another good outing Wednesday.