After a pair of close games, the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks continue their four-game series Saturday night in the desert. The teams have split the first two games of the series, both one-run games.
It’s been a rough week for the Diamondbacks, who saw their four-game winning streak end on Sunday and have proceeded to drop four of their last six games. However, they remain one of the surprise teams in the majors this year. Arizona sits five games over .500 and is second in the NL West behind only the Dodgers.
The Braves, meanwhile, are trying to establish themselves in the mediocre yet competitive NL East. Despite Friday’s win, Atlanta is still a game under .500 and three games back of the Phillies. That win also snapped a four-game losing streak, so they haven’t had the most fortuitous week either.
Back on the Horse
Kevin Gausman will start for Atlanta on Saturday. This will be Gausman’s second start since he ejected in the 2nd inning for throwing at Miami pitcher Jose Urena earlier this month. He’s been hit with a suspension but is appealing it, freeing him up to make Saturday’s start. Of course, outside of the start when he was ejected, Gausman has allowed at least five runs in his last three starts, causing his ERA to balloon to 5.00.
On the bright side, Gausman has a great history against almost all of Arizona’s hitters. Adam Jones and Eduardo Escobar have had a little success against Gausman, but he’s handled most the Diamondbacks during his career. That being said, the likes of David Peralta and Wilmer Flores are swinging hot bats at the moment. Gausman also doesn’t have much experience facing Christian Walker, who has been outstanding early in the season in place of the departed Paul Goldschmidt and the injured Jake Lamb.
The Oldest Rookie
Merrill Kelly will start for Arizona on Saturday. The 30-year-old rookie is filling the final spot in the Arizona rotation after spending the last three seasons pitching in Korea. Through seven starts, Kelly has been as unreliable as you’d expect from a fifth starter. He’s had some truly impressive starts mixed in with some dreadful outings. His last start against the Rays was the latter, yielding seven runs over four innings.
Naturally, Kelly has never faced any of Atlanta’s hitters, and he could have his hands full on Saturday night. The Braves have five regulars who currently have an OPS over .800. The veteran contingent of Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, and Nick Markakis are all having strong seasons. They’ve been complemented nicely by Ronald Acuna and former Diamondbacks prospect Dansby Swanson. To be fair, the Atlanta bats have gone a little cold lately, but Acuna and Swanson have continued to hit, and Freeman is always dangerous, especially against inexperienced pitchers.
After a pair of one-run games in the first two games of the series, this is bound to be another close game. But given Gausman’s success against the Arizona hitters and the number of quality hitters in the Atlanta lineup, bet on the Braves to pull off the win.