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Braves return home to face NL Central-leading Brewers

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The schedule doesn’t get much easier during Hank Aaron Weekend

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves have gone 7-7 and alternated wins and losses in 14 games since the All-Star Break. They notched a 6-3 win Thursday over the New York Mets to wrap up a nine-game road trip with a 5-4 record. Atlanta took three of the five games in New York and closed the trip out four games back in the NL East standings. While they were able to slightly close the gap in the division, it was somewhat of a missed opportunity. The Braves began the trip outscoring Philadelphia 24-12 in what turned out to be a series split. The series in New York was largely the same story as they outscored the Mets 21-11 over the five games while suffering a 1-0 loss in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader and a 2-1 defeat Wednesday.

If you are looking for positives then the team’s swelling run differential since the All-Star Break is a good place to start. However, this trip was also a microcosm of the 2021 season as a whole for the Braves, who just simply have been unable to string together wins and still haven’t spent a day above .500.

For as much hype as there was for Atlanta’s matchups against Philadelphia and New York, their toughest task may await them this weekend in Milwaukee. The Brewers entered play with a 60-42 record and a seven game lead in the NL Central. They acquired infielder Eduardo Escobar from the Diamondbacks Wednesday in an effort to shore up their infield depth. In 2021, Milwaukee has been all about pitching, with the NL’s best rotation by fWAR. Their hitting has been below average and a lot of their fielders aren’t particularly agile either, but they’ve positioned incredibly well so far, which has made them far and away the best run prevention team in MLB so far this season. That could spell trouble for a Braves team with a depleted lineup that’s already had trouble getting on the board consistently.

Friday, July 30, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Corbin Burnes (17 GS, 102.0 IP, 36.6 K%, 4.5 BB%, 2.12 ERA, 1.35 FIP, 2.18 xFIP, 52 ERA-)

The Braves will have their work cut out for them as they face two of the best pitchers in the National League in Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff in the first two games of the series. Burnes has been lights out in July, allowing just three runs in 27 1/3 innings spanning four starts. He has 31 strikeouts and just four walks during that span. He allowed four hits and one run in six innings in his last start against the White Sox. Burnes is currently in a three-way tie with Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler for the MLB lead in fWAR, so... boy, hopefully the Braves can figure something out.

Burnes has yet to have a start this season with a below-average FIP or xFIP, and it’d be wild if the Braves were somehow to cause this to change.

Touki Toussaint (2 GS, 13.2 IP, 29.4 K%, 3.9 BB%, 1.32 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 2.53 xFIP, 32 ERA-)

The Braves needed one of their young pitchers to step up following the injury to Ian Anderson, and Touki Toussaint has fit the bill through two starts. After spending most of the season on the Injured List with a shoulder injury, Toussaint looks like a different pitcher and has turned in back-to-back strong performances. He held the Padres to just three hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings in his season debut. Toussaint was even better in his next outing, allowing five hits, one run while striking out a career-high 10 batters in seven innings against the Phillies. The Braves might need every smidgen of his success to have a chance in this game.

Saturday, July 31, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Brandon Woodruff (20 GS, 126.0 IP, 30.4 K%, 6.4 BB%, 2.14 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, 52 ERA-)

Woodruff will get the nod in the second game of the series Saturday. He is right there with Burnes and gives the Brewers one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, as he’s tied for fifth in MLB with 3.9 fWAR — behind the aforementioned three leaders and Nathan Eovaldi, and that’s it. Woodruff has been equally impressive in July, allowing nine runs in 25 innings across four starts. He has 27 strikeouts and seven walks over that span. He allowed five hits, three runs and struck out nine over seven innings in his last start against the White Sox. Woodruff had a couple of back-to-back starts in June where he gave up two homers apiece, but other than that, he’s been about as tough as Burnes. It could be a long weekend, and not in the fun vacation sense.

Kyle Muller (6 G, 5 GS, 24.2 IP, 25.7 K%, 12.9 BB%, 2.55 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 4.80 xFIP, 61 ERA-)

The Braves will call on another one of their young arms Saturday in lefty Kyle Muller. After a rough debut in relief where he allowed four hits and two runs in just one inning, Muller has pitched well since joining the rotation. He allowed four runs in three starts before the All-Star Break while recording 19 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. He was sent back to Gwinnett during the break but was recalled and has pitched in two straight doubleheaders. He allowed four hits and struck out two over five scoreless innings in his last outing against the Mets. Muller has substantially outpitched his peripherals so far and is currently running just a 3.3 percent HR/FB rate, things that the Braves might need to continue to have a shot at beating Woodruff.

Sunday, August 1, 1:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Brett Anderson (15 GS, 63.0 IP, 14.2 K%, 6.7 BB%, 3.86 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 4.12 xFIP, 94 ERA-)

Veteran lefty Brett Anderson is scheduled to start the series finale for Milwaukee Sunday. Anderson has had a bit of an up and down season but has strung together three good starts in July where he has allowed a total of nine hits and two runs in 15 combined innings. He faced the Braves back on May 15 and struggled, allowing eight hits and four runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Anderson barely strikes anyone out and has allowed incredibly devastating contact this season, but the Brewers’ defense has bailed him out time and again.

Charlie Morton (21 GS, 116.0 IP, 27.7 K%, 8.6 BB%, 3.72 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 3.53 xFIP, 90 ERA-)

Charlie Morton will make his 22nd start of the season for the Braves in Sunday’s series finale. Morton allowed five hits and three runs over five innings in a win over the Mets earlier this week. Morton has been Atlanta’s most consistent starter in 2021 and has pitched at least five innings in eight straight starts. He has allowed three runs or less in seven of his last eight outings.