The Braves go for something they haven’t managed in over a decade.
Over the medium-term arc of baseball history, the Braves’ experience in San Diego has been a weird one. Between 2012 and 2018, trips to Petco Park were a horror-show, full of incipient collapses, walk-off losses, and a complete dearth of series wins. This was perhaps some kind of cosmic rebalancing for the fact that between 2007 and 2011, the Braves never lost a series in San Diego. However, even with that prior run of success, a sweep proved elusive: you have to go back to 2006, when the Braves actually made two separate trips to Petco Park, to find a sweep. That sweep, too, came in the first series after the All-Star Break, so perhaps the baseball syzygy is in place once again.
A large part of that alignment of heavenly bodies: Mike Soroka will be on the hill for the Braves. Fresh off tossing a three up, three down frame in the All-Star Game, Soroka will be continuing his delectable 2019 campaign, which has seen him post a 54 ERA- / 71 FIP- / 84 xFIP- pitching triple-slash and amass 2.3 fWAR in fewer than 90 frames of work so far. Only 23 starters in baseball have provided more production to their teams than Soroka has so far, and all but one of those have thrown more innings than him, with the majority having something like four more starts than the young right-hander in which to do their damage.
Soroka’s most recent start was a real weird one, his shortest non-injury-curtailed start of the year. He lasted only 4 2⁄3 innings, as a result of the Phillies scoring four runs in the first off of him. But, he righted the ship and allowed nothing more after that frame. It was by far his unluckiest outing of the year, with a .288 xwOBA-against (his ninth-best in 15 starts) but a .386 wOBA-against (his second-worst in 15 starts). Soroka’s had a few starts where he benefited from the opposite (May 15 against the Cardinals is probably the best example), but there’s little cause for concern given that his overall xwOBA-against is still a very sparkly .286 on the year.
The Padres will try to stave off a sweep behind Cal Quantrill, another rookie who knows a thing or two about bad luck after his first two months in the majors. Quantrill’s pitching triple-slash (minus basis) is 113 / 110 / 101, and he’s been plagued by the fact that he’s giving up about 1.5 homers per nine innings, which in and of itself is a symptom of a higher-than-average HR/FB rate that might regress, especially given that Quantrill throws pretty hard and is probably expected to mitigate hard contact that way.
After spending a couple of June weeks in the bullpen, Quantrill returned to the rotation on July 3 and fared poorly in a start against the Giants, surrendering two homers across 19 batters faced, as well as three runs and a 4/1 K/BB ratio overall in 4 1⁄3 innings of work.
Quantrill and Soroka both were parts of the four-game series the Padres played in Atlanta earlier this year, and as baseball would have it, both were involved in the two Braves wins in that span. Soroka dominated the Padres for six innings on April 29, allowing just one run with an 8/1 K/BB ratio and zero extra-base hits; he also set up Atlanta’s win at the plate by laying down the sacrifice bunt that was thrown away into center field and led to the tying and go-ahead runs being scored. Quantrill, meanwhile, made his major league debut two games later and allowed just two runs in 5 2⁄3 with a 3/1 K/BB ratio (and no homers allowed) to the Braves, but got only a run of support as Max Fried stifled San Diego’s bats. That was actually Quantrill’s most effective outing from a run prevention perspective this year, though he’s done much better at other times in terms of peripherals.
In his brief time as a major leaguer, Quantrill has been bedeviled and dominated by left-handed batters (6.25 FIP, 5.64 xFIP, compared to 2.93 / 2.91 against righties), so it’ll be up to the Braves’ left-handed bats to do what they did to him in his debut again, i.e., rack up the extra-base hits. In that outing, even though Quantrill escaped allowing just two runs, he allowed four doubles, a triple, a single, and a walk to the 19 lefty batters he faced — he retired all five righties in that game.
Atlanta Braves @ San Diego Padres
Sunday, July 14, 2019
4:10 pm EDT
Petco Park, San Diego, CA
TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: XM Streaming 841