Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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MLB Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (23-27) Atlanta Braves (31-19)

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES NOTES:

GAME #50 RECAP: The Phillies fell to the Atlanta Braves, 8-5, at Truist Park … Starter Aaron Nola (ND) went 6.0 innings and allowed 5 runs on 8 hits with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts … The teams traded blows for most of the night in a back and forth NL East showdown … Alec Bohm hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning and Bryce Harper homered and went 3-for-4 … The game was tied at 5-5 in the 8th before Atlanta scored 3 runs in the frame and held on for an 8-5 win.

ON THE DOORSTEP OF HISTORY: Right-hander Craig Kimbrel picked up his 399th career save in Sunday’s 2-1 Phils win … Kimbrel is one save away from becoming only the eighth player in the history of Major League Baseball to reach 400 saves … His next appearance will be the 730th of his career – of the seven previous pitchers to reach 400 saves, only three did so in under 800 career appearances: Mariano Rivera (697 G), Trevor Hoffman (706 G) and Kenley Jansen (778 G) … Billy Wagner reached #400 in his 813th career game, John Franco in his 837th, Lee Smith in his 847th and Francisco Rodriguez in his 878th.

TAKE A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: Craig Kimbrel’s first ever major league appearance came at Citizens Bank Park on 5/7/10 with ATL against the Phillies – the first batter he faced was Jayson Werth, who doubled … Kimbrel would then strike out Raul Ibanez (1st career strikeout) and Carlos Ruiz before getting Wilson Valdez to ground out to end the inning … Kimbrel’s 1st career save came on 9/19/10 at NYM – he struck out the side (Carlos Beltran, David Wright & Chris Carter) … Kimbrel’s 100th career save came on 5/9/13 at SF … His 200th career save came on 6/8/15 at ATL (with SD) … His 300th career save came on 5/5/18 at TEX (with BOS).

IN COMPANY WITH COOPERSTOWN: One save away from #400, Craig Kimbrel also ranks 11th since at least 1893 with 1,128 strikeouts as a reliever … He trails Hall-of-Famers Trevor Hoffman (1,133) for 10th place and Mariano Rivera (1,135) for 9th place … Additionally, in the 399 instances when he has converted a save, Kimbrel has a 0.64 ERA (28 ER, 396.2 IP) – here are the ERA’s (in saves) for the seven current members of the 400-save club when they reached #400: Rivera (0.67), Billy Wagner (0.75), Lee Smith (0.83), Hoffman (0.84), John Franco (0.88), Kenley Jansen (0.94) and Francisco Rodriguez (1.05).

HARP ON IT: Last night, Bryce Harper went 3-for-4 with a home run in four plate appearances against left-handers … It was Harper’s first regular season home run off a lefty in over a year (last: 5/14/22 at LAD off Julio Urias) … Last night’s home run (off Dylan Dodd) traveled 445 feet which is tied for the fourth-longest homer Harper has hit off a left-hander in the Statcast era (since 2015) – four of his five longest home runs off left-handers since 2015 have come against Atlanta: 470 feet on 8/22/20 (Robbie Erlin), 460 feet on 3/30/19 (Jesse Biddle) and 445 feet on 8/10/20 (Sean Newcomb).

THEY DON’T BOO NOBODIES: Phils designated hitter Bryce Harper reached 5,000 career at bats last night … When he reached 5,000, Harper had 614 extra-base hits and 891 walks and he became only the 13th player in the modern era (since 1900) with as many walks and extra-base hits through the first 5,000 at bats of a career … Harper is joined by Babe Ruth (1928), Ted Williams (1951), Mike Schmidt (1982), Barry Bonds (1995), Mark McGwire (1998), Frank Thomas (2000), Jeff Bagwell (2000), Jim Thome (2003), Brian Giles (2006), Lance Berkman (2009), Adam Dunn (2011) and Mike Trout (2022).

ANGEL IN THE OUTFIELD: Center fielder Brandon Marsh currently ranks T-6th among all MLB outfielders with 4 outs above average (OAA) per Statcast … Marsh is one of three NL outfielders with at least 4 OAA and is joined by MIL’s Joey Wiemer (5 OAA) and SD’s Fernando Tatis Jr. (4 OAA) … Additionally per Statcast, Marsh has more than doubled his walk rate from last year (6.1 % to 14.6%) and his 8.5% spike is the largest of any player in MLB this year … Finally, at 92.5 MPH on balls in play, Marsh has gained 3.3 MPH on his average exit velocity this season which is the 9th-largest spike of any player in baseball (up from 89.2 MPH in 2022) … In 2022, Marsh hit .188 with a .260 SLG against LHP in 105 PA – his .260 SLG ranked 50th out of 53 left-handed hitters against LHP … This season, Marsh is hitting .270 with a .541 SLG against LHP in 42 PA – his .541 SLG ranks 8th out of 43 left-handed hitters against LHP (min. 40 PA).

ON THE WAY TO CAPE MAY: This Monday on Memorial Day, the Phillies will spend an off day in New York City before opening a three-game set against the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday … This will mark the third consecutive summer holiday the Phils have been off … Last year, the Phillies had off on Labor Day for the first time in 24 years (last: 1998) and they were off on July 4th for only the sixth time in franchise history and for the first time since 1916 (not counting 2020 pandemic season or 1981 strike season) … It marked the first time since Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 that a team did not play on either July 4th or Labor Day during one season (excluding 1994 strike and 2020 pandemic).

TONIGHT’S STARTER – TAIJUAN WALKER • RHP #99
2023: 3-2, 5.79 ERA Career: 57-52, 3.98 ERA

LAST START: 5/21 vs CHI: ND, 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO … Walker vs Steele … The Phillies defeated the Chicago Cubs, 2-1, and took another series win in front of a sold out crowd at Citizens Bank Park … Walker made his first career start on three days rest and notched his first scoreless appearance of at least 5.0 innings since 7/10/22 vs MIA (7.0 IP) … With the game scoreless in the 7th, Bryson Stott belted his first career pinch-hit home run to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead … Craig Kimbrel picked up career save #399.

TONIGHT’S START:

  • Doing the Splits: Walker has used his splitter 36.3% of the time in 2023, the highest rate of his career (previous: 27.6% in 2022) … He has thrown it more often than any other pitch (298 times, next: 4-seam, 185 times) and has surrendered just 2 XBH (2B, 3B) on it. Walker threw his splitter for 46 of 85 pitches on 5/7 and 46 of 105 pitches on 4/9, the most he has ever thrown the pitch in a game in his career (previous: 43 times, 6/2/22 & 8/8/16). 19 of his 42 strikeouts have come via the splitter and his 23.5 strikeout percentage and 25.2 whiff percentage with the pitch are the 9th-best and 10th-best marks in the NL, respectively (min. 10 PA).
  • Limiting Lefties: This season, Walker has held lefties to a .235 (19-81) average, compared to a .271 average (26-96) against righties … Since his debut year, 2013, Walker has limited lefthanded batters to a .232 average (391-1684), 14th-best among right-handed arms during that span (min. 1,500 LHB faced).
  • Pick ‘em Off: Walker’s 20 successful pickoff attempts since the start of the 2015 season are tied for the 5th-most among active major league pitchers in that span and tied for 2nd-most among active righties. Is one of 6 right-handed hurlers with multiple successful pickoffs this season.
  • From the Ground Up: Walker’s 51.5% ground ball rate is the 11th -highest among all NL pitchers (min. 30.0 IP).
  • Free Passes?: Walker did not issue a walk in 2 straight starts (5/7 & 5/12) and averaged 13.2 pitches per inning across those starts after averaging more than 18.6 pitches per inning in his first 6 starts of the year. He last went 2 straight games without walking a batter from 9/11-16/22 while with the Mets. Has issued 2+ walks in each of his other 8 starts this year.
  • vs NL East: 9-8, 3.70 ERA (76 ER, 185.0 IP) in 36 games (35 starts).

ROAD:

  • 2023: 2-2, 7.43 ERA (22 ER, 26.2 IP) in 6 starts.
  • Career: 32-31, 4.15 ERA (223 ER, 483.1 IP) in 93 games (91 starts).

2023 SEASON:

  • Made his Phillies debut on 4/3 at NYY after signing a 4-year contract with the club in December.
  • Pitched for Team Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, making 1 start in Pool Play against Great Britain … He threw 4.0 scoreless IP with 2 baserunners allowed and recorded 8 of his 12 outs via strikeout.

ATLANTA BRAVES NOTES:

vs. N.L. East

Atlanta tonight continues its series with Philadelphia, and improved to 11-3 (.786) against divisional opponents this season with last night’s win. That stands as the best intra-division record in baseball this year. Dating to 2018, Atlanta is 223-135 (.623) against the N.L. East, 88 games over .500. Just two teams in baseball, the Dodgers (239-125, .657) and Astros (228-128, .640), have been better against their own divisions in that span.

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Braves and Phillies tonight continue a four-game series in what is the second of 13 scheduled meetings between the clubs this season…Atlanta and Philadelphia next meet from June 20-22 in a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park.

  • The Braves beat the Phillies, 8-5, last night to win the opener.
  • Atlanta went 11-8 against Philadelphia last season to win the season set, and has won the season series with the Phillies in each of the last two years…The Braves went 10-9 against the Phillies in 2021, and have now won the season set with Philadelphia in consecutive years for the first time since a five-year run, 2012-2016.
  • The Braves and Phillies met in the 2022 postseason, with Philadelphia winning the NLDS, three-games-to-one, to eliminate the defending World Series champions…Philadelphia outscored Atlanta, 24-13, in the series.
  • Atlanta and Philadelphia have played 50 games here at Truist Park since the facility opened in 2017, and the Braves are 33-17 (.660) here at home versus the Phillies…Atlanta went 6-3 against Philadelphia here last season, and has won 12 of the last 15 with the Phillies here dating to 2021.
  • LH Jared Shuster is set to make the fifth start of his major league career tonight, and his first against the Phillies…The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander earned his first major league win in his last turn, and is 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA (12 ER/19.2 IP) over his first four career starts.
  • RH Taijuan Walker tonight makes his eighth career start against Atlanta, and is 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA (16 ER/28.0 IP) over his first seven starts versus the Braves…Eight of the 16 earned runs came in just two starts last season, when he went 0-1 with a 24.00 ERA (8 ER/3.0 IP) against Atlanta…In 10 starts for the Phillies this year, the 6-foot-4, 235- pound native of Shreveport, LA, is 3-2 with a 5.79 ERA (30 ER/46.2 IP).

WIN: Atlanta last night plated three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take an 8-5 lead that would stand as the final score over Philadelphia…The win was the Braves’ 11th this season in their final at-bat, including their second consecutive.

  • Travis d’Arnaud delivered a pinch-hit, go-ahead, two-run single in the eighth inning, the 12th go-ahead hit of his career in the eighth inning-or-later…He had just one such hit as a pinch hitter before in his career, August 20 vs. Houston last season.
  • Atlanta improved to 31-19 (.620) with the win, just the ninth time in the modern era (since 1900) that the franchise has won at least 31 of its first 50 games…The Braves currently have the best record in the National League and the fourth best in baseball.
  • Last night’s crowd of 43,216 was the third-largest in Truist Park history, including the postseason.

JARED SHUSTER: Earned the first win of his major league career in his last start, allowing just one hit and one run over 6.0 innings against Seattle, May 21…The Braves beat the Mariners, 3-2.

  • The outing was just the sixth in franchise history in which a pitcher went at least 6.0 innings and allowed no more than one hit within his first four career games, and the first since Ian Anderson did so twice in his first four games in 2020.
  • Steve Shields was the first to do so in 1985, while Randall Delgado (2011) and Michael Soroka (2018) have also done so for the Braves.
  • Shuster is ranked as Atlanta’s top overall prospect by MLB.com.

AUSTIN RILEY: Collected the fifth multi-homer game of his career last night, going 2-for-5 with three RBI…He has hit in a season high-tying eight straight games, going 12-for-30 (.400) with five doubles and two homers in that span.

  • Fourteen of the 23 balls he has put in play during his streak have been over 100.0 mph (61%), including all three of his balls in play last night.
  • He has at least one extra-base hit in four straight games, his longest streak of the season and tied for the longest active run in the majors…He last had a five-game run from August 30 to September 3 of last season.
  • In the 15 games prior to his current run, Riley batted just .219/.275/.328 with one double and two homers.
  • Since the start of his streak, he has raised his batting average by 25 points (.239 to .264) and his OPS by 72 points (.722 to .794)
  • Riley’s first-inning home run last night gave him 301RBI for his career, and he collcted his 500th hit and 100th homer earlier this season…Last night was his 500th major league game.
  • Per the Elias Sports Bureau, just three players in franchise history have reached 500/100/300 in fewer games than Riley…Fred McGriff did so in 412 games after making his Braves debut, Bob Horner needed 429, and Eddie Mathews did it in 456 games.

MARCELL OZUNA: Went 2-for-3 with a double, homer and three runs scored last night, and is batting .343/.421/.746 with a 1.167 OPS during the month of May.

  • His 1.167 OPS is third highest in the majors for the month, trailing just Arizona’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (1.256) and St. Louis’ Nolan Gorman (1.173).
  • Ozuna has compiled a wRC+ of 206 during the month, seventh highest in the majors…The league-average mark is 100, meaning Ozuna has been 106 percent above league average in May.
  • He has 23 total hits this month, after collecting just five over 18 games in March and April.

Tonight’s Starting Pitcher – #45 Jared Shuster LHP
2023 Record: 1-2, 5.49 ERA • 2023 MiLB Record: 2-0, 3.28 ERA
vs. RHB: .222 (12-54), 1 HR • vs. LHB: .235 (4-17), 1 HR
Home: 1-0, 4.50 ERA (4/4.0) • Away: 0-2, 6.52 ERA (7/9.2)

Tonight’s Game

  • Set to make his fifth career start.
  • Held Seattle to one hit, a solo home run, with seven strikeouts over 6.0 innings of one-run ball in his last start.
  • Became just the second pitcher in Braves franchise history (dating to 1901) to hold an opponent to one hit or less while pitching at least 6.0 innings and recording seven or more strikeouts in one of his first five career starts…Ian Anderson became the first pitcher in the organization to do so on September 9, 2020.
  • Is 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA and 23 strikeouts in five starts with the Stripers.
  • Averaging 8.39 strikeouts per nine innings with Gwinnett while having a 6.86 rate with Atlanta.

2023 Recap

  • Recalled to Atlanta on May 16.
  • Was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after last start against San Diego on April 7.
  • Made his major league debut against Washington on April 2.
  • Allowed six hits, four runs and five walks through 4.2 innings pitched.
  • Was the third player from the Braves’ 2020 First-Year Player Draft to debut with the club.
  • Joined Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder as the other hurlers from the ‘20 draft class to play for Atlanta.
  • Became the eighth Braves pitcher to debut with a start against the Nationals/Expos.
  • Pitched to a 1.74 ERA in six appearances, four starts, with 19 strikeouts through 20.2 innings pitched in Spring Training.
  • Began the Spring without allowing a run in his first four outings (12.2 IP).
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