The Atlanta Braves are set to close out the first half of the season and head into the All-Star break with a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins. Atlanta rallied from a four-run deficit in the ninth on July 4 to claim a series win over the Marlins. However, that momentum fizzled when they dropped the first two games of their road trip in Pittsburgh. They avoided a sweep with a blowout win on Wednesday and desperately need to close out the first half on a good note, as time is running out.
Atlanta enters the series with a 42-44 record but are still just 4.5 games back of the New York Mets for the division lead. The Braves will enter Friday’s game with an 18-22 record away from Truist Park and are 4-6 against the Marlins this season.
Despite erupting for 14 runs on Wednesday, the Braves’ offense has been lackluster of late. They entered play Thursday fifth in the National League in runs scored but that production has been inconsistent, to say the least. Atlanta has scored three runs or less in 10 of their last 15 games. Included in that stretch was a 20-run outburst against the Mets and Wednesday’s 14-3 win in Pittsburgh. That was on the heels of them scoring two runs combined in the first two games of the series.
Atlanta’s inability to string together hits has put a strain on the entire club and has put even more pressure on the pitching staff. They will be looking to carry over some of that momentum from Wednesday into this weekend’s series but that isn’t something that has manifested itself at all during the 2021 season.
Miami comes into this weekend’s series with a 38-48 record and is 8.5 games behind the Mets. Despite losing on Thursday, they recorded a big series win to start the week, taking three of four from the Dodgers. The Marlins will throw three strong starters against the Braves in the series, as all three of their arms have dominated opposing bats in the first half.
Friday, July 9, 7:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Charlie Morton (17 GS, 92.0 IP, 27.6 K%, 8.0 BB%, 3.91 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, 96 ERA-)
Charlie Morton will get the start for the Braves in Friday’s series opener and will be looking to find some success against the Marlins. Morton has made three starts against Miami this season and has been tagged for 16 hits and 13 runs by the Marlins in just 15 1/3 innings. Morton faced the Marlins in his last start on July 4 and cruised through the early part of the game before things unraveled in the sixth. That has been a recurring theme for him this season as he has often dominated early only to see one bad inning skew his overall line.
Zach Thompson (5 GS, 24.0 IP, 32.0 K%, 7.2 BB%, 2.25 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, 59 ERA-)
Zach Thompson matched up against Morton back on Independence Day and allowed five hits and three runs over six innings. He struck out six and walked just one. That was the first time Thompson had allowed more than two runs in a start. He faced Atlanta back on June 12 in what was supposed to be a bullpen game but tossed five scoreless innings while allowing four hits to go along with six strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .193 off of Thompson through his first five starts.
Saturday, July 10, 4:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Max Fried (13 GS, 67.2 IP, 23.0 K%, 8.2 BB%, 4.66 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 114 ERA-)
Max Fried will get the start Saturday and will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing in Pittsburgh. Fried was the hero in that July 4 comeback win as he drove home the winning run with a pinch hit single in extra innings. Unfortunately, he struggled on the mound the next night where he allowed seven hits and six runs in five innings against the Pirates. That was the first time that Fried had allowed more than four runs in a start since April 13, when he gave up seven to the Marlins before going on the injured list for a hamstring strain that he suffered while running the bases.
Trevor Rogers (17 GS, 97.1 IP, 30.3 K%, 8.2 BB%, 2.22 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 3.30 xFIP, 58 ERA-)
Trevor Rogers will represent the Marlins in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game and will make his final start of the first half on Saturday opposite Fried. The Braves missed him in the previous matchup in Atlanta. He allowed six hits, two runs and struck out eight in five innings in his last start against the Dodgers. Rogers faced the Braves back on April 15 where he allowed three hits and two runs over five innings in his first start of the season. Rogers is currently eighth in MLB in fWAR among starters.
Sunday, July 11, 1:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Ian Anderson (16 GS, 88.2 IP, 24.8 K%, 8.5 BB%, 3.35 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, 82 ERA-)
Ian Anderson will send the Braves into the All-Star break in Sunday’s series finale. Anderson wasn’t sharp in his last start but gave Atlanta a chance, allowing five hits and three walks but just one run in five innings against the Pirates. Anderson hasn’t faced the Marlins since that opening series and actually matched up against Rogers in that game allowing six hits and three runs over five innings.
Pablo Lopez (18 GS, 95.0 IP, 26.6 K%, 6.0 BB%, 2.94 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.39 xFIP, 77 ERA-)
Pablo Lopez will start the finale for the Marlins and will be hoping to avoid controversy this time around. Lopez was ejected after hitting Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pitch of the game on July 2. He came back four days later and limited the Dodgers to just four hits and a run over four innings. He struck out eight, walked one and hit another batter. Lopez hasn’t had a lot of luck against the Braves in his career posting a 5.85 ERA in 11 career starts against Atlanta, but has been money against nearly every other team this season.