So, here we go again. Believe it or not, we’ve reached the final road trip of the regular season, one of the dreaded West Coast variety. The Braves will head to San Francisco, Phoenix, and then San Diego, before coming home for just six games, and that’s it. Holding a three-game lead in the division after a disappointing 4-4 homestand, it’d probably be best for Atlanta if they avoid the generally-terrible fate that’s befallen them on road trips to the California coast, at least when they feature NL West opponents. The Braves haven’t won a road trip that’s featured at least two of the Dodgers, Giants, and/or Padres since April 2011, and while we’re only talking about a couple of those per season, it’s still a long time that we’ve all been dreading the same part of the schedule. But hey, it’s hardly all bad. After all, a few months ago, we could’ve been looking at the calendar and thinking that this trip turning into yet another house of horrors would’ve just been a depressing exclamation point on a disappointing season, but here we are: these mid-September games matter. That’s a pretty cool victory in and of itself.
Exciting times or not, the first matchup of this trip is not shaping up to be an easy one. For one, the Braves have to play the Giants, who still have the majors’ best record, and a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. For another, they have to face Logan Webb, who transformed from a 45 FV prospect and average-type starter to a guy that’s put up 3.2 fWAR in just 125 innings this season, and utterly dominated them in Atlanta a few weeks ago.
Webb has a ridiculous 69 ERA-/71 FIP-/67 xFIP- line on the season, and it’s an even better 52/65/64 since coming back from a shoulder strain that kept him out of action for all of June. Webb bamboozled the Braves for seven shutout innings in Atlanta — the Braves won the series, but not that game, as Webb’s 98 pitches, including a three-pitch inning, and 6/1 K/BB ratio proved way too much to overcome. Since then, he’s mostly kept rolling: one run in seven frames with a 10/1 K/BB ratio against the Brewers, three runs in seven innings with a 6/0 K/BB ratio at Coors Field, and then most recently, an uncharacteristic stumble against the Cubs: six innings, five runs (four earned), a homer allowed, and just a 5/2 K/BB mark. Webb pitches like a throwback — sinker, slider, changeup, everything low, low, low with a lot of drop and no lighting up of the radar gun, but it’s worked so far, possibly because hitters have found it difficult-if-not-impossible to elevate his brand of sinker, which has some extreme drop, mirrors with his slider, and seems to benefit from some seam-shifted wake as well.
With yesterday’s rainout, the Braves are pushing back Ian Anderson’s scheduled start for tonight. Anderson presided over the Braves’ rubber match victory against the Giants in Atlanta in his return from the Injured List with a shoulder problem of his own, but he hasn’t been rolling at all, since. That win against the Giants came with 5 2⁄3 scoreless frames despite a bewildering 0/2 K/BB ratio, and the bottom fell out for Anderson as he was thrashed at Coors Field in his next outing. Most recently, he seems to have righted the ship somewhat, with a 9/2 K/BB ratio and two runs in five innings allowed to the Marlins, but he still exhibited the same command and mechanics problems at times, so it remains to be seen just which version of post-injury Anderson will show up tonight.
Overall, the Braves have gone 6-9 since taking two of three from the Giants in Atlanta, while the Giants have gone 11-6, including a nine-game win streak, before dropping the last two games of their most recent four-game home set with the Padres. This isn’t going to be easy, but that’s just par for the course for the 2021 Braves. Maybe they’ll make something happen anyway. We’re staying up late to find out.
Friday, September 17, 2021
9:45 pm EDT
Oracle Park, San Francisco, CA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: Online / Ch. 189