Saturday, June 22, 2024
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MLB Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (65-75) at Atlanta Braves (91-48)


THE PIRATES:..had the day off yesterday…Took two of three games against the Brewers on their homestand that wrapped up Wednesday afternoon…Have gone 7-2 in their last nine games…Won five straight games from 8/28 to 9/2, their third-longest winning streak of the season (the team won a season-high seven straight games from 4/17-23)… Have won four games this season when trailing after eight innings (won three games when trailing after eight last season)…Have gone 24-21 in their last 45 games since losing each of their first five games following the All-Star break.

ROAD RULES: Tonight the Bucs begin a three-game series against the Braves that will end a stretch of nine of 12 games on the road…Pittsburgh went 5-1 on its last road trip after sweeping the Royals and taking two of three games against the Cardinals… Pittsburgh’s pitching staff has recorded a 2.33 ERA (54.0ip/14er) in the last six games on the road.

GEORGIA ON OUR MINDS: The Pirates split their four-game series against the Braves during the last meeting between the two teams at PNC Park from August 7-10…Since then Atlanta has won seven of its last eight series.

MITCH’S MONTH IN REVIEW: One month ago today Mitch Keller allowed three runs in 5.0 innings while coming away with a no-decision against the Braves at PNC Park…Since August 8, Keller has recorded a 2-0 record, 2.03 ERA (31.0ip/7er) and 37 strikeouts in five starts…Keller’s 2.03 ERA in that time is tied for the fifth-lowest in all of MLB…The only four pitchers to have a lower ERA in that time are Charlie Morton (0.96), Seth Lugo (1.24), Cole Ragans (1.80) and Dean Kremer (1.82).

K IS KELLER: Mitch Keller comes into today ranked fifth in the National League and ninth in all of MLB with a career-high 187 strikeouts (he is also two strikeouts away from the 500th of his career)….The last Pirate to finish among the top 10 leaders in strikeouts in MLB was A.J. Burnett with 209 in 2013.

FROM PITTSBURGH. FOR PITTSBURGH: Earlier today Major League Baseball announced David Bednar as Pittsburgh’s nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award…The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field…Pittsburgh’s last national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award was Andrew McCutchen in 2015.

BRYAN VS. THE BRAVES: Bryan Reynolds is a .340 career hitter (32-for-94) with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, 14 RBI and .928 OPS in 25 games against the Braves…He has gone 20-for-43 (.465) with four doubles, a triple, three home runs and 10 RBI in 12 career games at Truist Park while hitting safely in each of his last nine games here.

LOCKED IN KE’: One month ago today Ke’Bryan Hayes went 2-for-3 with a double, home run and three RBI against the Braves… Since that day, Hayes ranks seventh in the National League in batting (.340), sixth in slugging (.720), OPS (1.057) and total bases (70) and 10th in on-base percentage (.397).

BUCS OF LATE: The Pirates have won seven of their last nine games coming into today since allowing 10 runs in back-to-back games on August 26-27…During the nine-game stretch, Pittsburgh’s pitching staff has recorded a 2.89 ERA (81.0ip/26er) while recording a .194 batting average against…Offensively, Pittsburgh is averaging 4.7 runs per game while defensively the team has made four errors.

PLAYING THE FIELD: The Pirates have recorded a .990 fielding percentage in their last 19 games beginning with the action on August 18….That’s the fifth-best fielding percentage in all of MLB in that time…The only four teams to produce a higher fielding percentage since August 18 are the Orioles (.995), Braves (.994), Diamondbacks (.991) and Rays (.991).

CALL TO THE PEN: Pittsburgh’s bullpen has recorded a 2.18 ERA (45.1ip/11er) in the last nine games…During the nine-game span that began on August 27, the bullpen has the second-lowest ERA in all of MLB behind the Rays (1.53) while being tied with the Phillies and Rays for the fewest home runs allowed (two).

MITCH KELLER: The 27-year-old righthander will make his 29th start of the season tonight…He allowed one run in 6.0 innings but had a no-decision in his last start in a 4-2, 10-inning win last Friday at St. Louis.

vs. ATLANTA: 0-2 with an 8.64 ERA (16.2ip/16er) in four career starts…Had a no-decision (5.0ip/3er) in his start on 8/8 in a last at-bat loss…Went 0-1 in one start in 2022 after allowing seven runs (2er) in 3.2 innings on 8/24 at PNC Park…Lost a 6-1 decision (5.0ip/5er) to Bryse Wilson on 5/22/21 at Truist Park…Allowed a pair of homers in the game on a leadoff shot by Ronald Acuna Jr.


Magic Number
Atlanta’s win last night reduced the club’s magic number to clinch the N.L. East to 10, meaning any combination of 10 Atlanta wins or Philadelphia losses will give the Braves their sixth consecutive division title. The Braves are vying for their sixth consecutive National League East title. Atlanta’s current five-year run is already the longest active division-winning streak in the majors. Manager Brian Snitker has skippered the Braves to a division title in five of his six full seasons at the helm. Atlanta can clinch a Postseason berth as early as tomorrow.

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Braves and Pirates tonight open a three-game weekend series in what is the fifth of seven scheduled meetings between the clubs this season…Atlanta and Pittsburgh split four games at PNC Park, August 7 to 10. The Braves and Pirates both scored exactly 25 runs in their four games at PNC Park…Pittsburgh’s win in the opening game of that series stopped an eight-game winning streak for Atlanta in the series. The Braves went a perfect 7-0 against the Pirates last season, just the second time in the franchise’s modern era they swept a season series of seven or more games with an opponent…The 1993 Braves went 13-0 against Colorado…Atlanta also did so this season, going 7-0 versus the Rockies. Atlanta has won the season set with Pittsburgh every year since 2018 in which they have played, going a combined 23-8 (.742) in that span…In addition to last year’s perfect mark, the Braves went 4-3 in 2021, 5-2 in 2019 and 5-1 in 2018 versus the Pirates…The two did not meet in 2020. The Braves are 15-4 (.789) here at Truist Park versus the Pirates since the facility opened in 2017…Atlanta has won seven straight and 13-of14 versus Pittsburgh here at home. RH Bryce Elder made his first career appearance versus the Pirates earlier this season, August 10 at PNC Park, and allowed six hits and five runs over 5.0 innings to take the loss…The 6-foot-2, 220- pound right-hander has not lost since that start, going 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA (6 ER/24.1 IP) over four total turns. RH Mitch Keller has never beaten Atlanta, compiling an 0-2 record with an 8.64 ERA (16 ER/16.2 IP) in four career games, all starts…The 6-foot-2, 220-pound native of Cedar Rapids, IA, faced the Braves on August 8 at PNC Park and allowed nine hits and three runs over 5.0 innings in a no-decision.

WIN: The Braves beat the Cardinals, 8-5, last night to stop their three-game losing streak and clinch the season series with St. Louis…The Braves went 4-2 in six games with the Cardinals this season, and have won the season set in each of the last five full seasons. Atlanta scored three times in last night’s first inning,
and its 129 runs in the first this season stand as a new single-season franchise record…The 1999 club scored 127 runs in the first to hold the previous mark…The Braves’ 129 runs in the first inning are most in the majors, 25 more than any other club. The Braves hit five home runs last night, with Ronald Acuña Jr. (2), Matt Olson, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Harris II all going deep… It was the 10th time Atlanta has hit at least five home runs in a game this season, and the Braves improved to 9-1 (.900) when doing so. Atlanta hit 11 total homers over its three-game series with St. Louis, and the Braves’ 270 homers on the season are by far the most in baseball.

Tonight’s Starting Pitcher – #55 Bryce Elder RHP
2023 Record: 11-4, 3.42 ERA • 2022 Record: 2-4, 3.17 ERA
vs. RHB: .233 (67-288), 7 HR • vs. LHB: .244 (70-287), 8 HR
Home: 6-1, 3.02 ERA (27 ER/80.1 IP) • Away: 5-3, 3.84 ERA (32 ER/75.0 IP)

Today’s Game

  • Set to make his second career start against Pittsburgh and 28th on the season. Scattered five hits over 6.0 innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers in his last start. Elder is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA over his last four starts. Elder’s 3.42 ERA on the season is the sixth lowest in the NL among qualifiers. Sported a 1.92 ERA in 11 starts prior to June 1. Pitching to a 4.52 ERA over his last 16 starts since the beginning of June. Teammate Charlie Morton ranks fifth; Atlanta and Arizona are the only team in the National League with multiple qualified starters ranking in the top 10. Elder’s 6.15 ERA with ROB is the seventh lowest in the NL among qualifiers. Opponents are hitting .205 against him with runners on base; the third lowest rate in the majors (among QS). Owns a 75.0 left-on-base percentage. His groundball rate of 51.3% of balls put in play is the fifth highest in the majors among qualified starters. Has recorded an out on 58.1% of those grounders put in play. The average launch angle of balls put in play against Elder is 7.00; fifth lowest in the National League. Elder is pitching to a 2.72 ERA while holding opponents to a .231/.300/.359 line the first two times through the lineup. Conversely, owns a 6.00 ERA and hitters have a line of .259/.329/.399 the third time through the order and on. Is 12-5 with a 3.11 ERA over his last 32 games started after being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett, dating to August 14, 2022. He has six starts in his career of at least 6.0 innings without allowing a run, the most such games in Braves franchise history (since 1900) in a player’s first 25 starts…Irv Young (1905), Clif Curtis (1909-’10) and Ian Anderson (’20-21) each had five such starts.

2023 Recap

  • Held the Yankees to one hit over 7.0 shutout innings on August 15. Became the 10th pitcher in Atlanta franchise hitsory to spin 7.0 scorless innings while limiting an opponent to one hit or less at the age of 24 or younger. Teammate Spencer Strider also did it earlier this season. Named to the 2023 National League All-Star Team, his first selection. Joined Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz and Michael Soroka as the only starters in Atlanta-franchise history to make the All-Star team in their second year playing. Joined Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran as the only Atlanta-era pitchers, age 24 or younger to post a 2.40 ERA or lower through their first 15 starts to a season. Elder has 20 games of at least 5.1 innings pitched in 25 career starts; the most in Atlanta franchise history through as many games started. Elder’s 2.30 ERA through 20 career starts is the lowest in Atlanta franchise history to begin a career. His 117.1 innings pitched through his first 20 games started were the most by an Atlanta player to begin their career since Julio Teheran in 2011-13. His 30 earned runs allwed are also the fewest during that span. Elder has held opponents to one run or less in nine games this season while pitching at least 5.0 frames in every outing. His 13 appearances of at least 5.0 innings pitched while holding opponents to one run or less are the most through a player’s first 25 outings in Atlanta franchise history
Mikey Balhan Sports

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