Moving on. Are everyone’s wounds sufficiently licked? After an abysmal series in Oakland, the Braves are headed to Phoenix, Arizona for a three game weekend set with the Diamondbacks. These aren’t your uncle’s snakes. AZ is currently tied for the best record in the National League along with the Dodgers. That could all change this weekend with a much needed bounce back performance from Atlanta.
The bats absolutely disappeared in the Colosseum earlier this week. Thankfully we’re headed to a much more hitter friendly park and climate. Arizona currently sits atop the NL West. They’ve won seven of their last ten and have peeled off five W’s in a row coming into the weekend. Unfortunately the Braves won’t have an easy path through the series from a pitching standpoint. We’ll see three righty’s and their two best arms overall.
Atlanta had a much needed day off on Thursday after playing 13 consecutive games. I’ve always heard that hitter meetings take place on Monday. I’d like to think that Kevin Seitzer huddled the troops for an impromptu discussion surrounding the recent approach at the plate. Particularly with RISP. Enough soapboxing. Let’s take a look at the matchups and get everyone primed for this weekend on the west coast.
Friday, June 2nd
Grab a coffee. Or stay up drinking longer than your significant other would like. We’ve got another late one. I’m on central time so an 8:40 pm local start is pretty brutal. I can’t imagine how you guys and gals on the east coast feel. Hey, at least it’s a Friday. Charlie Morton will face Merrill Kelly to kick the series off in Phoenix.
Morton seems to have regained his form after a slightly rocky 2022. Chuck has been great in 2023. May wasn’t as crisp as April but he’s been about as good of a middle rotation starter as you’ll find around the league. The curveball is as good as ever and his ability to reach back and find 97 makes for good television. If he can keep the ball in the yard, he always seems to give the Braves a chance. He just needs a little run support this time through.
Merrill Kelly is off to a tremendous start to his age 34 season. 2.83 ERA on the season with a WHIP just barely over 1. He’s only allowed four runs through his last three starts and racked up 23 K’s in the process. Atlanta is only slugging .421 against right handed pitching this year. That’s over 125 points lower than their efforts against lefties (.548). I hope the Braves have watched some good tape of Kelly on their off day. The tea leaves say that he could give them fits.
Where: Chase Field – Phoenix, AZ
When: 9:40 PM ET
Watch: Bally Sports Southeast
Saturday, June 3rd
Another night cap for Braves country. I’ve grown fond of the mid-afternoon Saturday games that we’ve become accustomed to but I digress. It’s projected to be about 97 degrees around first pitch in Phoenix so I can live with watching it on my couch after the sun has gone down. Spencer Strider takes on Ryne Nelson in game two of this series.
Strider looks to continue his NL Cy Young campaign and hopefully pick up his sixth win of the season. He comes into town sporting a 0.990 WHIP and has already accumulated an MLB leading 106 strikeouts. You know what you’re in store for here. Heat in the desert. His last outing against the Phillies only produced 9 K’s so I’m sure he’s itching to get that preverbal monkey off his back.
Ryne Nelson is the most vulnerable arm we will see before we head back to Atlanta. A 5.37 ERA and only 37 strikeouts over eleven starts makes my eyes light up a bit. He offers a ~95 MPH fastball and a pretty even mix of a cutter, slider and changeup to round out his arsenal. Barrell %, Hard Hit% and Launch Angle figures all favor the Braves in this one. Maybe a combination of the temperature and an off day on Thursday will produce some of the long fly balls that this team seems to rely so heavily upon.
Where: Chase Field – Phoenix, AZWhen: 10:10 PM ET
Watch: Bally Sports Southeast
Sunday, June 4th
The getaway game gives us another glimpse of Cy Young candidacy. One present and one past. Michael Soroka will make just his second major league start since August of 2020 on Sunday. He’s looking for a little smoother sailing as he goes up against Zac Gallen who has quickly become one of the best arms that the National League has to offer. 104 degrees on Sunday. 104. I don’t want to hear your arguments surrounding humidity.
If you’re reading this, you know the Soroka story, so I wont delve into all of that. But man does it feel good to have him back. I’m sure if you asked him, he would have liked his start in Oakland to go a little bit differently but I saw great things. He’s built a bit differently these days and the mechanics have changed but he proved that he still has big league stuff. Save for one inning that got away from him against the Athletics, it was a very promising comeback. I think we’ll see a little more of what he offered on Monday and then some. This Arizona lineup will be a good test for Michael and If anyone is ready for the challenge, it’s him.
Zac Gallen has picked up right where he left off in 2022. 7-2 Record. 1.032 WHIP. 82 K’s. He’s the real deal. He got beat up by Pittsburg on May 19th but rebounded nicely in his last two starts giving up only two runs over 11.2 innings. He leads the majors in hits per nine with 5.9 and has only given up two homeruns in his 12 starts this season. I don’t love this match up on paper. Contact hitting isn’t exactly the Braves strong suit and even if it was, I’m not sure how we’d fair against Gallen. He placed 5th in NL Cy Young voting and I’m willing to bet he will finish better than that in ’23. Zac is also on my fantasy team so I’m really just torn on this one all the way around.
Where: Chase Field – Phoenix, AZ
When: 4:10 PM ET
Watch: Bally Sports Southeast, MLB Network
That’ll do it folks. This could be a potential post season preview. I wouldn’t have guessed that a couple of years ago but the snakes have certainly turned their franchise trajectory around. This should be a fun series if the Braves can flash some of their offense and clean up the work in the field a bit. Hopefully we can also get a look at AJ Smith-Shawver. Mets come to Atlanta next. Cheers.