The Braves were embarrassed by the Pirates on Monday. The pitching was bad, the offense was worse, and the hypothetical momentum of a thrilling Sunday victory quickly evaporated with every run the lowly Pittsburgh offense pushed across. Meanwhile, the Atlanta offense had baserunners all night and still managed to score only one run. It was among the most excruciating viewer experiences you will find in baseball: watching your team get smoked by a bottom dweller. Luckily, the Braves have two more opportunities to right the ship.
Ian Anderson will draw the start for Atlanta, looking to build upon his last start against the Mets that saw the right-hander battle through seven innings against Jacob deGrom. Anderson was clearly laboring, but managed to keep the Braves in front with the help of some batted ball luck and solid defense. The Pirates pose a similar challenge: they put the ball in play. Pittsburgh has the fifth-lowest strikeout total in baseball this season, but their BABIP ranks just 24th, which may explain their run-scoring conundrum. Quality of contact has been an issue, which opens the door to a much larger debate about the modern game, but we’ll table that discussion for another day.
Back to Anderson, who enters play with a 5-4 record, 3.35 ERA, and 91 strikeouts in 88.2 innings. He also owns a 1.9 fWAR, along with 3.38 FIP and 3.51 xFIP. The numbers say that Anderson has been legitimately effective this season, and that his success should be sustainable. The right-hander has been outstanding for Atlanta since his call-up last season, and continues to serve as a very reliable mid-rotation starter.
Taking the mound for the Pirates will be Chad Kuhl, whose 2021 season has been much less impressive than that of Anderson. Kuhl enters play with a 2-5 record, 5.16 ERA, and 35 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. His underlying metrics are just as bad, with the right-hander producing a -0.2 fWAR, 5.65 FIP, and 5.61 xFIP. The culprit, or at least the main culprit, for Kuhl’s struggle has to be the walk rate. He is averaging 5.56 BB/9 this season. If the Braves can be patient and make Kuhl throw strikes, they can find success and hopefully rejuvenate an offense that sorely needs a breakout.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, July 6, 7:05 p.m. ET
Location: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network