The Braves will head out on the road Monday where they will begin a three-game series against the Phillies.
Coming off of a series win at home against the Angels despite a 9-1 drubbing in the finale, the Atlanta Braves will head back out on the road for an NL East matchup against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves are now 58-39 on the season, including 35-12 since June 1. They are 25-18 overall on the road this season.
The Braves did get some bad news before leaving for Philadelphia on Sunday. Outfielder Adam Duvall will undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist later this week and will miss the remainder of the season. With Eddie Rosario struggling since returning from eye surgery (and before the surgery), the Braves may need to look for an outfield option before the Trade Deadline. A right-handed option could make more sense, but given Rosario’s struggles, they don’t have to restrict themselves to that if a good deal for a lefty-swinging player appears.
The Phillies, of course, are still dealing with a substantial outfield injury of their own, as Bryce Harper remains out after undergoing surgery on his broken thumb. The Phillies come into this series reeling a bit after getting swept at home by the Cubs. They have now dropped seven of 10. On July 9, the Phillies were 46-39, with a two-game lead for the final NL playoff spot. They’re now 49-46, and a game out of playoff position. The Braves have taken four of the seven games between the two clubs this season, splitting a four-game set in Atlanta in May, and then taking a series in Philadelphia at the end of June.
Overall, the Phillies will bring an average position player group (decent hitting, awful fielding) into this series. Their pitching has been good, featuring MLB’s best rotation on the season, and while they’re easy to make fun of, the bullpen is now top 10 in fWAR as well. The bigger problem is just an inability to score, or make up for runs the defense allows. After winning 2-0 on July 8, and then 1-0 on July 9, the Phillies have scored more than three runs just twice in 10 games. They won both of those, and one more 2-1 game, but have lost the other seven, including three defeats by a 3-4 score.
Monday, July 25, 7:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Max Fried (19 GS, 119.1 IP, 22.9 K%, 4.6 BB%, 2.64 ERA, 2.57 FIP)
The Braves elected to push Max Fried back to Monday’s series opener in Philadelphia, giving him a full four days of extra rest. Fried has put together another top-shelf season and the Braves are going to need more of the same from him coming down the stretch. Fried allowed seven hits and three runs over seven innings in his last start against the Nationals. He faced the Phillies in Atlanta back on May 24, where he allowed two runs over six innings.
One thing to watch will be whether the break refreshes (has refreshed?) Fried. Through his first 16 starts, Fried’s ERA/FIP/xFIP were all well below 3.00, and the number of starts with an a mark at or above 4.00 were four (ERA), three (FIP), and zero (xFIP). In his final three starts, Fried put up a collective 4.82 xFIP, including his worst-xFIP, second-worst xFIP, and fourth-worst xFIP starts of the year so far. A lot of that is attributable to a five-walk game against the Mets, something he essentially hasn’t done in his career, but it remains to be seen whether he’s going to reprise his early-season domination or come in a little worse.
Ranger Suarez (16 GS, 84.0 IP, 18.8 K%, 9.1 BB%, 4.07 ERA, 4.10 FIP)
Lefty Ranger Suarez will get the start for the Phillies in Monday’s series opener. Suarez has put together a solid if unspectacular season for Philadelphia. He entered the All-Star Break on a good note with five scoreless innings against the Marlins in his first start back from the Injured List. Suarez faced Atlanta on June 29 and allowed six hits and four runs over 6 2/3 innings. He was placed on the IL three days later due to lower back spasms. He was also hit hard by the Braves in an earlier start in Philadelphia.
Tuesday, July 26, 7:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Spencer Strider (21 G, 10 GS, 74.1 IP, 37.9 K%, 10.0 BB%, 3.03 ERA, 2.04 FIP)
Spencer Strider was also the recipient of some much-needed rest coming out of the All-Star Break. It might have been needed after his last two starts where he struggled with his command and where elevated pitch counts led to early exits. Strider allowed five hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings against the Mets on July 12. He struggled early and lasted just four innings allowing four hits and five runs in four innings in his last start against the Nationals. Strider made his final relief appearance before joining the rotation against the Phillies back on May 25 and tossed 2 2/3 hitless innings to go along with five strikeouts.
While there’s no specific reason to expect Strider to struggle again, if he does, the Braves will probably feel a greater sense of urgency to bolster the rotation before the Trade Deadline.
Aaron Nola (19 GS, 126.2 IP, 28.1 K%, 3.3 BB%, 3.13 ERA, 2.81 FIP)
Right-hander Aaron Nola will make his 20th start of the season against the Braves on Tuesday. Nola has put together a brilliant campaign and is among the group of pitchers vying for the Cy Young Award. His 3.5 fWAR ties him with Max Fried for fourth in MLB. Nola entered the All-Star Break with a brilliant performance in Miami where he allowed just four hits and struck out 10 over 8 1/3 innings against the Marlins. He has faced the Braves twice this season and has allowed a combined five runs in 15 1/3 innings, as the Braves dropped both games.
If there’s one small saving grace for the Braves, it’s that Nola’s xFIP has slightly increased every month. It’s still just 3.26 in July, but that’s at least a little more heartening than his 2.94 on the season.
Wednesday, July 27, 12:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Charlie Morton (19 GS, 105.0 IP, 27.3 K%, 9.0 BB%, 4.20 ERA, 4.15 FIP)
Charlie Morton opened the second half for the Braves in a matchup against Shohei Ohtani. While he wasn’t as dominant as Ohtani, he held the Angels in check over six innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out seven. After getting off to a slow start, Morton started to turn his season around in June and has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. He has faced the Phillies twice this season, allowing six runs in 10 innings; the Braves won both games.
Kyle Gibson (19 GS, 101.2 IP, 18.7 K%, 6.8 BB%, 4.69 ERA, 4.39 FIP)
Kyle Gibson will get the start in Wednesday’s matinee. Gibson has had an up-and-down season overall and that is illustrated well by his performance in July. He began the month allowing six runs in four innings to the Cardinals. He then allowed one run over his next two starts combined, but was again tagged for six runs in 4 1/3 innings by the Cubs in his final start before the All-Star Break. Gibson faced the Braves in Atlanta on May 24 and struck out eight while allowing two runs over five innings, in a game the Braves eventually won in walkoff fashion.