Series #15: Braves and SunTrust Park

Series Quick Look
Monday, May 22, 7:35PM 
Tuesday, May 23, 7:35PM

Wednesday, May 24, 7:35PM
Thursday, May 25, 12:10PM
at SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA


The Pirates will make their first appearance at the Braves new home in Cobb County—SunTrust Park. The four-game series will be the final matchup with the Braves this season after the Pirates swept the Braves in the opening series at PNC Park this season. The Braves are 8-10 so far at their new park after biding farewell to Turner Field while the Pirates are a horrid 8-15 away from Pittsburgh this season.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Pirates lead 1,104-1,023
Last matchup…April 7-9, 2017. Pirates swept the Braves, outscoring them 17-13 through three games.

About the Braves:
The Braves come into this series in second place of the NL East. That’s the good news. The bad news is they’re 18-23 and seven games behind Washington in what so far has been a one-team division. Atlanta is finishing up a nine-game homestand with the Pirates before heading to the west coast to play San Francisco. So far, the Braves are 3-2 on the homestand, including a series win over the Nats this past weekend. The Braves have been decent offensively (5th in OBP) with Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp leading the charge. They suffered a blow last week as Freeman fractured his left wrist and is set to miss at least 10-12 weeks. The loss of Freeman is significant as he was leading the NL in OPS and home runs with 14. They traded for Matt Adams on May 20 to replace Freeman though with the Braves rebuild, the trade is a suspect one. Adams is hardly a proper replacement for Freeman with a 82 wRC+ this season in just 52 at-bats this season. If anything, he’ll provide the Braves a warm body at first base until Freeman returns and saves on having to call up a minor leaguer that might not be ready.

Their offseason signings in the rotation of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to eat innings and allow some of their pitching prospects to develop in the minors is not going the greatest so far this season. Dickey and Colon have provided some innings, but both are struggling as Dickey has a 6.16 FIP and Colon with a 6.38 ERA. Julio Teheran, who was relied on to be the ace of this staff, is off to a rough start with a 5.47 ERA in nine starts. Overall, the Braves rotation ranks 12th in the NL in ERA and second to last in FIP. The bullpen has been a little better, at 9th in the NL with a 4.20 ERA. Defensively, the Braves rank in the top half of the NL in Defensive Runs Saved at -2. The last time we saw this team in April, they showed horrible defense throughout the series that led to the Pirates sweep.


PROBABLES & NOTES: 

5/22: RHP Gerrit Cole (2.84 ERA/3.52 FIP, 86 FIP-) vs.
RHP Mike Foltynewicz (4.10 ERA/4.77 FIP, 116 FIP-)

Gerrit Cole kicks off this series with his 10th start of the season. Cole’s been pitching like the ace he is this season and as of late. In May, he’s posting a 2.00 ERA and in his past three starts, he has a cool 1.71 ERA with seven innings pitched in each start. Cole has been great for the Bucs this season and looks to continue that in Atlanta. Cole faced the Braves in April and tossed six innings with three runs allowed for the no-decision. Overall, he’s 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts versus Atlanta. The Braves will counter with Foltynewicz as he makes his 8th start of 2017. Foltynewicz has not done very well against the Bucs in his career, allowing 12 runs in 12 innings over three starts. He’s currently having a pedestrian season with a 95 ERA- or just above average.

5/23: RHP Tyler Glasnow (7.34 ERA/5.43 FIP, 131 FIP-) vs.
RHP R.A. Dickey (4.13 ERA/6.17 FIP, 149 FIP-)

The Tyler Glasnow roller coaster show comes to SunTrust Park for his 9th start of the season as he looks to build on a better start against the Nationals last week. Glasnow’s overall numbers are scary looking, but it’s baby steps with the major prospect. Glasnow pitched five innings with six strikeouts last time out and just two earned runs though a throwing error by him cost the team two more runs. This will be his first start against the Braves in his career. The Bucs will face Dickey for the second time this season after the Bucs got to him for six runs (three earned) in 5.2 innings in Dickey’s Atlanta debut on April 8th at PNC Park. Dickey has been more effective as late, but has only given up less than three runs in a start once this season. The Bucs will look to continue their success against the knuckleballer early in the season.

5/24: RHP Trevor Williams (6.04 ERA/5.65 FIP, 136 FIP-) vs.
RHP Julio Teheran (5.47 ERA/5.28 FIP, 128 FIP-)

On paper, this looks like a massive pitching mismatch, but Teheran has struggled for the Braves so far this season while Williams is coming off of two promising starts for the Pirates. Williams was thrown in the rotation with the news of Jameson Taillon‘s surgery, and he’s still in the process of stretching himself out after being the long reliever in the pen. In his last two starts, Williams has a 3.38 ERA. He struck out no batters in his last start and will need to induce the groundball to find success here. Teheran’s overall numbers are skewed a bit because of a couple awful starts, but he’s a pitcher that can give the Pirates lineup fits. He went seven strong on April 9 at PNC Park with two unearned runs allowed on six hits. Overall, he’s 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in eight games versus Pittsburgh. He is coming off of his worst start of the season where he allowed nine runs in three innings against Toronto.

5/25: RHP Ivan Nova (2.63 ERA/3.22 FIP, 79 FIP-) vs.
RHP Bartolo Colon (6.38 ERA/4.59 FIP, 111 FIP-)

Ivan Nova is slated to make his 10th start of the season Thursday afternoon at SunTrust Park. Nova is still leading the NL in BB/9 with a stingy 0.6 mark, four walks in just 61.2 innings. Nova has come back down to Earth though a little bit in May. Since his complete game shutout of the Marlins on April 29, Nova has a 4.21 ERA and given up 35 hits in 25.2 innings of work. He’ll look to be better against the Braves on Thursday. Nova started the 2017 season versus the Braves at PNC Park on April 7 in the home opener with six strong innings and one unearned run. The Braves will toss 44-year-old Colon in this one (his birthday is Wednesday) in what could be his final start against the Pirates ever. Colon hasn’t been very effective for the Braves in 2017, but overall he’s owned the Pirates with a minuscule 1.94 ERA in nine starts for the Pirates. As for this season, Colon’s velocity isn’t down, his walks and strikeouts as right along with his career numbers but he’s experiencing a little bad luck with a .331 BABIP. Let’s hope the Pirates can give him one final send off and light him up.


TV/RADIO INFO: 
TV (All games): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh and Fox Sports Southeast (FSSE)
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7

ON THE SHELF: 

Pittsburgh:
Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain. 
Jameson Taillon (P): 10-Day DL (May 6)—Recovering from testicular cancer surgery.
Gregory Polanco (OF): 10-day DL (May 17)—Left hamstring discomfort.
Josh Lindblom (P): 10-day DL (May 20)—Left side discomfort.  

Atlanta:
Jacob Lindgren (P): 60-day DL (Feb. 14)—Recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Sean Rodriguez (1B/OF): 60-day DL (Feb. 25)—Recovering from left shoulder surgery.

Daniel Winkler (P): 10-day DL (April 2)—Recovering from elbow surgery.
Armando Rivero (P): 10-day DL (April 2)—Right shoulder strain.
Micah Johnson (2B): 60-day DL (May 8)—Recovering from left wrist surgery.
Adonis Garcia (3B): 10-day DL (May 17)—Left Achilles tendinitis.
Freddie Freeman (1B): 10-day DL (May 18)—Non-displaced left wrist fracture.

Chaz Roe (P): 60-day DL (May 20)—Right lat strain.
Eric O’Flaherty (P): 10-day DL (May 20)—Back discomfort.    


FRAZIER CAN HIT
It should come as no surprise because he’s hit at every level of his career, but Adam Frazier is raking for the Bucs. Coming into this series, Frazier is hitting .369/.418/.476 with a 143 wRC+. He’s hitting nearly 40% of his balls in play to opposite field and couples that with a high line drive percentage as well. As David Freese mentioned following last Saturday’s game, if Frazier gets the at-bats he’s going to win a batting title in the future. The Bucs are 10-8 with Frazier in the starting lineup in 2017.

KEMP ON FIRE
Matt Kemp punished the ball in the opening series versus the Mets to start the year with six straight extra-base hits, but he has no slowed down. Despite an injury during the Pirates series in early April, Kemp missed more than a week but came back continuing ripping the cover off the ball. For the season, Kemp is slashing .351/.388/.634 for a 166 wRC+. Him and Freeman have been a scary 1-2 punch in the Braves lineup and with Freeman out, the Pirates will have to watch how they pitch Kemp.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE
With Braves shortstop Swanson off to a slow start this season, could Josh Bell be in line for a Rookie of the Year campaign? Bell is slugging .504 with a 120 wRC+ and is leading the team in home runs with nine. Bell is the just the second Pirates slugger to belt nine home runs in the first 150 plate appearances of his age 24 season, joining Brad Eldred. That’s a better rate than Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner when they were 24 years old.

ON A ROLL
After being swept by the Dodgers and then losing the first two games in Arizona, the Pirates have turned it around with wins in 6-of-8 game since then. The Pirates went 6-2 by defeating the Diamondbacks in the final two games of that series in the desert and then won a series against the Nationals and Phillies. Meanwhile, the Braves are playing well as of late too with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games.

SWANSON
Dansby Swanson starting the season off horribly (.134/.184/.183), leading some to speculate whether he needed some more seasoning in the minors. The Braves stuck with him, however, and he’s been heating up as of late. Since April 29, Swanson is hitting .302/.410/.492 with three home runs in 63 at-bats.

NEXT UP:
The Pirates return home to start a six-game homestand against the Mets and Diamondbacks.

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