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MLB Preview: Atlanta Braves (25-15) at Texas Rangers (25-15)

ATLANTA BRAVES NOTES:

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Braves and Rangers tonight open a three-game series in what is the only scheduled matchup between the clubs this season…The two teams played three games here in Arlington last season.

  • The Rangers took two-of-three from the Braves last season…Atlanta and Texas are playing in back-to-back seasons for just the second time in history, after also doing so in 2002 and 2003.
  • Atlanta and Texas have played 24 games since the advent of interleague play in 1997, with the Braves going 11-13 (.458) all-time against the Rangers… However, Atlanta won each of the first six games between the clubs in 2002 & 2003, and has gone just 5-13 (.278) since 2005.
  • The Braves have not won a series with the Rangers since a three-game sweep in 2003.
  • Here in Arlington, Atlanta has lost five-of-six dating to 2014, and is just 3-9 since 2005.
  • RH Charlie Morton has made six career starts against Texas and is 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA (11 ER/33.1 IP) in his career against the Rangers…
    He has not faced them since 2018 while with the Astros…The 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander has made seven starts for Atlanta this season and has a decision in all seven, going 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA (15 ER/40.2 IP).
  • LH Cody Bradford is set to make his major league debut tonight for Texas…He is ranked as Texas’ No. 26 prospect by MLB.com, and has gone 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA (4 ER/39.2 IP) in seven starts for Triple-A Round Rock to open the season… The 6-foot-4, 197-pound native of Aledo, TX
    was originally drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Baylor University, which is about 100 miles from Globe Life Field.

LOSS: Atlanta dropped its fourth consecutive game yesterday afternoon, losing to Toronto, 6-5…The Blue Jays scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Braves their first walk-off loss of the season.

  • It is the only loss the season for Atlanta when scoring at least five runs…The Braves are 21-1 when scoring five or more.
  • Atlanta got home runs from Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Kevin Pillar, its first loss when hitting at least three home runs this season…The Braves last loss when hitting three-or-more homers on September 11 of last year at Seattle, when they hit four in the loss, 8-7.
  • Yesterday’s loss was the second for Atlanta this season when leading after eight innings, joining April 27 vs. Miami…The Braves’ two such losses are tied for third most in the majors, one behind Oakland and St. Louis.
  • The Braves fell to 6-8 in interleague play with the loss, and are in the middle of 14 consecutive games against the American League.

DEBUT VS. ATLANTA: LH Cody Bradford is set to make his first major league start tonight, and is the first starting pitcher to debut against Atlanta this season.

  • Four such pitchers did so last year, with Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene, San Diego’s Mackenzie Gore, Oakland’s Jared Koenig and Washington’s Jackson Tetreault all doing so.
  • Those four pitchers combined to go 1-2 with a 7.86 ERA (16 ER/18.1 IP) in their starts, and none completed more than 5.1 innings.
  • Since 2000, 33 pitchers had made their debuts with a start against Atlanta…They have combined to go 7-16 with a 6.02 ERA (111 ER/166.0 IP), and their teams are just 13-20 in these games.

VERSUS LEFTIES: LH Cody Bradford starts for Texas tonight, and Atlanta is 9-4 (.692) against lefthanded starting pitchers this season…That record is third best in baseball and tops in the National League.

  • Only Tampa Bay (6-2, .750) and Baltimore (12-5, .706) have been better.
  • Since 2018, when Atlanta’s run of division titles began, the Braves have gone 121-83 (.593) against left-handed starters…Only the Astros (167-89, .652), Dodgers (156-88, .639) and Yankees (134-84, .615) have better records in that span.
  • Atlanta is batting .312/.376/.565 with a .941 OPS against all lefties this season, all of which are best in the majors…The Braves’ 27 homers against lefthanded pitching are five more than any other team.
  • Versus all left-handed pitching this season, Atlanta has a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 152, second most in baseball behind Tampa Bay (156)…The league-average wRC+ is 100, meaning Atlanta is 52 percent above league average versus lefties.
  • Conversely, Atlanta has just a 98 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, two percent below league average.

FIRST-INNING RONALD: Ronald Acuña Jr. drove the third pitch of yesterday’s game out to left-field, his second leadoff home run of the season.

  • The shot was the 28th leadoff home run of his career, extending his own franchise record.
  • Acuña Jr. is batting .486/.525/.811 in the first inning this season, with a majors-most 18 hits.

DEFENSE: The Braves committed three errors in yesterday’s game, including two by 2B Ozzie Albies and one by LF Kevin Pillar…Three of the six runs Atlanta allowed yesterday were unearned.

  • The Braves have allowed 139 earned runs on the season, fewest in the National League and fifth fewest in the majors…Atlanta’s 15 unearned runs allowed, though, are fifth most in the N.L.
  • Atlanta’s 27 errors on the season are fourth most in the majors…Only the A’s (30), Angels (29) and Giants (28) have committed more.

Tonight’s Starting Pitcher – #50 Charlie Morton RHP
2023 Record: 4-3, 3.32 ERA • 2022 Record: 9-6, 4.34 ERA
vs. RHB: .247 (20-81), 1 HR • vs. LHB: .267 (20-75), 3 HR
Home: 2-1, 2.50 ERA (5/18.0) • Away: 2-2, 3.97 ERA (20/22.2

Today’s Game

  • Set to make his eighth start of the season and first against Texas.
  • Walked a career most six batters in his last start against the Rangers on June 9, 2018.
  • In the start prior to his last against Texas on May 12, 2018, Morton set his career high with 14 strikeouts.
  • Morton has struck out 297 hitters with his curveball since the beginning of the 2020; the most in the majors.
  • During that span hitters are missing on 51.8% of curveballs thrown, the second highest rate in the majors…The MLB average is 12.1% (among QS).
  • Over the last two seasons he has thrown his curve on 39.3% of pitches, also the most in baseball.
  • Morton’s 943 strikeouts since the 2018 season are the fourth most in baseball.
  • Prior to the 2018 season, Morton threw his curveball on 21.3% of pitches throughout his career.
  • Since the beginning of 2018 he has thrown his curve on 35.8% of pitches.
  • Enters play with only 18% of balls put in play against him registering as line drives this season.
  • Tied for the third lowest mark in the majors.
  • Hitters are registering a .313 batting average on balls in play against Morton in ’23.
  • The MLB BABIP this season is .290 for qualified starters.
  • Batters are hitting 37.3% of balls 95 mph or higher against Morton while the MLB average for qualified starters is 38.2%.
  • In his age 39 season, Morton is the sixth-oldest active pitcher in the majors.

2023 Recap

  • Made his first start of the season against St. Louis.
  • Only struck out one hitter through 5.1 innings pitched against the Cardinals, marking just the ninth time in his career Morton pitched at least 5.0 frames while failing to record at least two punchouts and the first since June 5, 2015 against Pittsburgh.
  • Struck out San Diego’s Jake Croneworth on April 8 to record his 1,700th career punchout.
  • Is one of 16 active pitchers in baseball with as many strikeouts.

TEXAS RANGERS NOTES:

WINS AND LOSSES: Texas beat the A’s yesterday, 11-3, and team finished with a 7-3 record on 10-G, 10-day road trip to LAA (2-1), SEA (2-1), and OAK (3-1)…TEX has won 2 straight, 4 of 5 and 7 of 9…TEX is 7-4 in last 11 G, but 11-4 in last 15 G…TEX is 11-8 in last 19 G, but still 17-9 in last 26 G and 21-11 in last 32 G beg. 4/9…have a 22-15 record last 37 G since club’s 3-0 start to the season…club has 5 different win streaks of 3+ G in 2023 (season-best 4-0 both 4/16-19 and 4/28-5/2)…team totaled 7 wins streaks of 3+ G in all of 2022.

  • At 25-15 (.625), TEX owns the 3rd-best record in A.L. and T4th-best in MLB (see chart)…club’s 25 wins rank 3rd in A.L./4th in MLB (31-TB, 26-BAL/LAD, 25-TEX/ATL).
  • The 25-15 start marks Rangers’ best 40-G start to a season since 2013 (26-14), one of the 6 best starts in club history.
  • TEX is a season-high 10 G above .500 for the 1st time since 6/28/19 (46-36), which is the only other date for Rangers to be 10-over since the start of 2017…this is the earliest date to reach 10-over in a season since 2013 (May 11)…club has not been 11-over since finishing 2016 w/ a 95-67 record.

BEST RECORDS IN MLB, 2023
Win Pct. Team W-L
.738 Tampa Bay 31-11
.650 Baltimore 26-14
.634 Los Angeles-NL 26-15
.625 Texas/Atlanta 25-15

IT’S A TRIP: The Rangers finished the season-long 10-G road trip with a 7-3 record, winning all 3 series at LAA/SEA/ OAK…the 7 wins are the most for Texas on a single road trip since an 8-2 mark from 6/10-19/16 at SEA/OAK/STL.

STANDINGS: Rangers have a season-best 4.0-game lead in the A.L. West, largest lead since winning the division title in 2016 (+9.0 G) and just the 6th season in club history to hold a 4.0-G lead in the West as early as May 14 (last in 2013)…club has a 4.0-G lead over 2nd-place HOU, which jumped past LAA into 2nd place yesterday…the 4.0-G lead is T2nd-largest division advantage in MLB entering today (ATL is + 5.0 GA in N.L. East and TB is +4.0 GA in A.L. East)…TEX has been alone or tied atop the division for 44 of the season’s first 45 days (exception: 4/8).

SERIES STUFF: TEX has won 3 straight series, going 4-0-1 in last 5 series and 8-1-1 in last 10…team is 5-0-0 in series against A.L. West foes in 2023…team is 9-3-1 overall in series this year, going 5-1-1 at home 4-2-0 on the road…club did not win an 8th series in 2022 until 6/21-22 vs. PHI…TEX won 4 straight series 4/10-23, longest such span since going 5-0-0 from 6/15-7/1/18…TEX is 3-0-1 in last 4 series at GLF, as lone series loss at home in ‘23 was 4/3-5 vs. BAL (1-2).

AT HOME: The Rangers are 12-6 (.667) at home this season, this after starts of 6-12 (in 2022) and 8-10 (in 2021) at GLF the past 2 years…the .667 home win pct. is 4th in the A.L. and 5th in MLB (19-3, .864-TB; 12-3, .800-TOR; 15-6, .714-LAD; 13-6, .684-BAL; 12-6, .667-TEX)…TEX has a 98- 112 all-time record at Globe Life Field (2020-23), but are 18- 13 last 31 G here (beg. 9/11/22).

  • TEX leads MLB in R/G (6.67) at home in 2023, and 120 R are T5th-most in Majors…team is also 3rd in MLB w/ 1.72 HR/G at home, this after ranking 9th in Majors at 1.25 HR/G at home in 2022.

CAN I COME HOME FOR THE SUMMER?: This 6-G homestand marks the Rangers’ last home games in May, as team has just 8 G in Arlington in May…from 5/5-31, TEX is playing 19 of 25 G on the road.

A DEBUT: LHP Cody Bradford had his contract selected from Round Rock (AAA) today, and he will make his Major League debut as the starting pitcher for tonight’s homestand opener vs. ATL…the Aledo native (west of Fort Worth) has gone 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA (4 ER/39.2 IP) over 7 G/GS with Round Rock in 2023. Bradford will be just the 2nd TEX pitcher to make a ML debut with a start since the beginning of 2022 (also Cole Ragans on 8/4/22 vs. CWS: ND, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R-0 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO)… this will be the 10th time since the start of 2016 for a Ranger to have a ML debut in a start with Texas…only one of the previous 9 in that span have earned a win: RHP A.J. Alexy on 8/30/21 vs. COL (W, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 SO).

MORE RUNS: Texas scored 11 R in yesterday’s win at OAK, the MLB-high 10th double-digit runs game by the offense in ‘23 (10-TEX, 7-CHC/TB)…TEX is just the 12th team since 1901 with at least 10 G of 10+ R over its 1st 40 contests in a season, 1st to do it since 2000 COL (10) and 1st in A.L. since 1999 CLE (10)…it is fastest to 10 G of 10+ R in Rangers history…TEX leads MLB in R/G (6.35) and ranks 2nd overall w/ 254 R (TB-260)…the 254 R are 2nd-most in club history thru 40 G to only 1998 (257), most by any MLB team after 40 G since 2001 COL (265).

  • The Rangers’ 8-run 8th inning yesterday was club’s 2nd-biggest inning of 2023 (9-R 4th on 3/30 vs. PHI), largest road frame since an 8-run 11th on 8/8/15 at SEA.

ADOLIS AND RBI: Adolis García had 5 RBI yesterday, including a grand slam in the 8th inning…he leads MLB with 42 RBI in 39 G in 2023, the 5th-highest total ever by a TEX batter through the team’s 1st 40 G of a season: 50-Juan Gonzalez in 1998, 45-Jeff Burroughs in 1974/Josh Hamilton in 2012, 43-Hamilton in 2008, 42-García in 2023…in last 9 seasons beg. 2015, only MLB players w/ so many RBI after 40 team games were CLE’s José Ramírez (43 in 2022) and García.

WARGAMES: Marcus Semien had a hit, HBP, RBI, and 3 R yesterday, as he ranks among A.L. leaders in runs (1st, 35) and RBI (5th, 34)…Semien has hits in 11 of the 1st 12 G in May at .333/.441/.521/.962 (16-48) to rise from .268 to .288…in bWAR rankings among MLB position players, ATL’s Ronald Acuña Jr. (2.7) and Semien (2.4) rank 1st and 2nd entering today’s games.

MORE SEMIEN: According to Baseball Info Solutions, Marcus Semien ranks 2nd among all ML 2nd basemen with 7 Defensive Runs Saved (Ha-seong Kim has 8 DRS)…Semien has a 32-G errorless streak, leading all ML 2nd basemen in TC (173), assists (105), and putouts (66)…since the start of 2021, Semien has 29 DRS at 2nd base, easily the most among any MLB player a the position in that span (Andres Gimenez is next at 18 DRS).

STREAKS ALIVE: Nathaniel Lowe (13 games) and Jonah Heim (12 games) both extended career-long hit streaks yesterday, as they account for 2 of the 3 longest active hit streaks in MLB (12 G, TB’s Yandy Díaz)…they also represent 2 of the 10 hit streaks of 12+ G in MLB in 2023.

VS. ATLANTA: Rangers/Braves will be playing at Globe Life Field for a 2nd straight year, as TEX took 2 of 3 from 4/29- 5/1/22…Rangers lead 13-11 all-time, winning 2 straight and 9 of last 12…since going 0-6 in 1st 2 meetings in 2002-03, Rangers are 13-5 beg. 2005 vs. ATL, winning each of last 6 series between the clubs.

  • TEX is 5-6 in Interleague this season, losing 6 of last 8 G, but are 4-1 vs. N.L. at Globe Life Field in ‘23. SHORTS: TEX rotation has quality starts in 6 of last 7 G, and 19 QS rank T4th in A.L…Bradford will be just 7th starter used by TEX in ‘23…Rangers’ 4 grand slams are most in a season since 2019 (7).

TONIGHT’S STARTING PITCHER – #61 Cody Bradford, LHP (ML Debut)
TONIGHT: The 25-year-old left-hander was selected from Triple-A Round Rock this afternoon, and is expected to make his Major League debut as Texas’ starting pitcher in tonight’s series opener vs. Atlanta…has gone 5-1, 0.91 ERA (4 ER/39.2 IP) in 7 games/starts at Triple-A this season, holding opponents to a .156/.240/.200/.440 (21-135) slash line…enters tonight’s outing ranked among Pacific Coast League qualifiers in ERA (1st), opp. BA (1st), WHIP (1st, 0.86), wins (T1st), and strikeouts (T6th, 37), and his 0.91 ERA figure is 2nd-lowest among all minor league qualifiers to only Ben Brown (0.59) of the Chicago Cubs organization…will be working on extended 5 days’ rest, as he last pitched in the Express’ 1-4 defeat on Tues. vs. Oklahoma City (see ‘Last Start’)…was named PCL Pitcher of the Month for April after going unbeaten (5-0) with a 0.64 ERA (2 ER/28.1 IP) across 5 starts in the campaign’s 1st month…entered this season ranked among the top prospects in the Texas farm system by both Baseball America (no. 22) and MLB Pipeline (no. 26)…the southpaw has paced Rangers minor leaguers in wins (21), strikeouts (289), and innings pitched (254.2) over the last 3 seasons (2021-23)…was named a 2021 Texas Organization All-Star by MiLB.com in his 1st professional action…missed the 2019 and 2020 campaigns due to injury and the pandemic respectively…owns a lifetime 21-12 record, 4.03 ERA (114 ER/254.2 IP), and 289 strikeouts over 53 appearances/starts in the minor leagues, and has spent all 3 seasons (2021-23) of his professional career in the Rangers organization…he was originally selected by Texas in the 6th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Baylor University, where he went 12-11, 3.86 (76 ER/177.1 IP) in 32 G/31 GS from 2017-19…the native Texan prepped at Aledo (Tex.) High School and grew up as a Rangers fan idolizing Derek Holland.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Bradford will be just the 2nd Texas pitcher to make a ML debut with a start since the beginning of 2022 (also Cole Ragans on 8/4/22 vs. CWS: ND, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R-0 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO)…this will be the 10th time since the start of 2016 for a Ranger to have a ML debut in a start with Texas, and only one of the previous 9 in that span have earned a win: A.J. Alexy on 8/30/21 vs. COL (W, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 SO)…additionally, Bradford will be the 4th native Texan ever to make his ML debut as a starting pitcher for the Rangers in Arlington: Glenn Otto on 8/27/21 vs. HOU (ND, 5.0 IP, 0 R), current Rangers Executive Vice President & General Manager Chris Young Chris Young on 8/24/04 vs. MIN (ND, 5.2 IP, 3 R-ER), and Jim Gideon on 9/14/75 vs. CWS (W, 5.2 IP, 6 R-5 ER).

LAST START: Will be working tonight on extended 5 days’ rest, as he last pitched in the Express’ 1-4 defeat on Tues. vs. Oklahoma City at Dell Diamond (ND, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 90 pitches/61 strikes)…produced season-high 7 strikeouts and matched his longest scoreless outing of 2023 in a duel with Gavin Stone (ND, 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R-ER, 4 BB, 4 SO), who currently ranks as the no. 46 overall prospect in baseball (MLB Pipeline)…Bradford was staked to an early 1-0 lead after Justin Foscue connected for a 1st-inning solo home run off Stone…maintained Round Rock’s 1-0 advantage before exiting after the 6th, but was removed from the decision when Nick Krauth permitted 4 runs in the top of the 7th inning.

2023: Went 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA (4 ER/39.2 IP) over 7 games/starts at Round Rock (AAA) before he was recalled by Texas this afternoon…held Triple-A opponents to a .156/.240/.200/.440 (21-135) slash line with 37 SO/13 BB and just one HR allowed…at the time of recall, ranked among Pacific Coast League qualifiers in ERA (1st), opp. BA (1st), WHIP (1st, 0.86), wins (T1st), and strikeouts (T6th)… his 0.91 ERA figure was 2nd-lowest among all minor league qualifiers to only Ben Brown (0.59 ERA) of the Chicago Cubs organization…opened the campaign by going 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA (2 ER/28.1 IP) in his first 5 starts, earning PCL Pitcher of the Month honors for April…also selected as the Rangers Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month for April…was scoreless over first 12.2 IP of the season… marked his 1st career Triple-A action, as he had not pitched above the Double-A level prior to 2023…entered this season ranked among the top prospects in the Texas farm system by both Baseball America (no. 22) and MLB Pipeline (no. 26).

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