Series Preview - Braves (64-46) @ Red Sox (54-56)
This weekend was a clusterfuck. Eck is retiring. Our players are unhappy. We're STILL in last place in the AL East. We have the defending World Series Champions in town for 2 games. What could go wrong?
Tuesday, August 9th 7:10 PM - Rich Hill (4-5, 4.52 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (13-5, 3.22 ERA)
Wednesday, August 10th 7:10 PM - Nick Pivetta (8-8, 4.51 ERA) vs Kyle Wright (13-5, 3.22 ERA)
Over the last 24 games, the Red Sox are 7-17, scoring 83 runs and allowing 164 runs. They have averaged 3.46 runs for and 6.83 runs against. This is as hopeless I have felt about the Red Sox since they were eliminated from playoff contention in 2019. At least back then we were in the mix up until the end, but now? It feels like half the team just wants to wrap it up and forfeit the rest of August and September. You feel like a sucker going to games and giving your money to an ownership group that isn't willing to put a good product on the field. The players are done, the owners don't care, and the front office is in limbo. If it weren't for an INCREDIBLE June, this would be the worst season since 2014. At this point, I may just pivot to being a WooSox fan. At least they're fun to watch.
I asked in the subtitle, "What could go wrong?" Literally as I am writing this, it's coming out that Chris Sale broke his wrist riding a bike 2 days ago. I almost think this may be a new experimental scripted comedy from NESN 360+ or whatever the fuck their streaming service is. It's a more logical explanation for this season than it being a major league baseball team.
Anyway, the dumpster fire rolls back into Fenway tonight to face the Braves. Sick. The Braves are coming off of dropping 5 of their last 6, with the most recent 5 losses coming at the hands of the juggernaut in New York (the Mets). Their lineup has 8 guys in double-digit home runs while we only have 3, one of which is Bobby Dalbec, and another is Trevor Story who hasn't played in almost a month. Their heaviest hitter this year is Austin Riley, who is slashing .296/.358/.584, good for a .942 OPS, with 29 HRs and 69 RBI. They just locked him up for 10 years $232 million. Can you imagine having a 25 year old third baseman with that kind of power and not locking him up as the cornerstone of your franchise? Only a poverty franchise would fuck with him right up until he inevitably walks. Superstar Ronald Acuna was scratched Sunday against the Mets, but it doesn't look to be anything serious so he'll likely play in Boston. They also have Matt Olsen shouldering a lot of their offensive load with 70 RBI, and scumbag Marcell Ozuna with 19 HRs. It's up there with the strongest lineups in Major League Baseball.
Tonight, we have Hill going up against Charlie Morton. Rich Hill has pitched twice since the start of July, once on July 1st, once on August 3rd. In those 2 starts, he has thrown 7.2 innings and allowed 7 earned runs, striking out 4 and walking as many. He's been getting crushed. I feel like every other pitch is a curveball that hangs up in the zone. This is a lineup that will absolutely take advantage of that. Historically though, they haven't been able to. Hill has only allowed 5 hits in 51 plate appearance, striking out 16 batters and only walking 5. I don't really have an explanation for that other than maybe the long ball isn't there against a pitcher that only throws his fastball at 88? Out of curiosity I looked at their stats against other guys with similar fastball velocities and a lot of them get rocked. So who knows? Baseball is just a weird sport.
The Sox will get Morton, and it's been the opposite story. The 38 year old still can sling it, with a fastball that is clocking in at around 95, but this season he is opting to be a curve-first pitcher. And it seems to be working well for him, as he has a .173 BAA on his curveball compared to a .253 on his fastball. The Sox have crushed Morton over the years. In 136 ABs, our lineup has 41 hits, with 11 of those being doubles, and 3 HRs. It has been mostly the usual suspects, X, JD, and Raffy combining for 95 of the at-bats and 31 of the hits, 8 of the doubles, and 2 of the home runs (both from Xander). That's good for .330 average from our big 3. The other guy that does really well against Morton is actually Hosmer. He's 4 for 10 with a home run. It hasn't been all bad for Morton though, he has 38 strikeouts against us, 10 of which are from JD and another 14 are combined from Bogaerts and Devers. It also seems like a lot of the Sox hits have been lucky, as he has a .242 xBAA compared to a .301 actual batting average against. With the way this season is going, I wouldn't be surprised if we see those numbers come down to where they're expected to be.
Wednesday, it's Pivetta and Wright. Before last series, I said I wanted at least 5 and only 2 earned from Pivetta against the Royals. He did go 5, but he allowed 3. It may have been a factor that the Royals were stealing bases like a group of teenagers stealing candy in a CVS before a movie. But I'm hesitant to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he just has looked pretty helpless out there over the last couple of months. It looks like it'll probably continue to trend that way against the Braves, since they have beat him up in the past. With 103 PAs against this Braves lineup, he has allowed 27 hits, 8 of which are home runs, but has struck out 26 and only allowed 8 walks. Unlike with Morton though, the xBA and xSLG numbers are pretty on-par with where they really are. The good news is the damage hasn't really come from their heavy hitters. Between Acuna, Ozuna, and Riley, they have 47 PAs and 10 hits, but half of those are home runs. I'm hoping Pivetta gets back on track and can finish out the season strong, but I'm not hopeful that will start on Wednesday.
The Sox will get Kyle Wright. Wright has started 21 games this season, picking up 124 Ks and carrying a 1.17 WHIP. We faced him back in May, where he would go 4.2 innings, allowing 6 ERs. That would be a great omen, but here is a list of the runners who scored: Vazquez, Verdugo, Cordero, Story, Bradley Jr, Devers. Notice anything interesting? Only 2 of them are on the roster today. Wright is fairly middle of the pack in all of his percentile rankings, and like Morton he's a curveball first pitcher with a 95 MPH fastball. This is his first year going with the curveball as much as he does, and it has really paid off for him, with xWOBA of .276 on the deuce. Against the current roster, he has been largely successful. 6 hits in 26 PAs, 8Ks, 1 HR. X and Devers are the only guys with multiple hits, both being 2-4 and Raffy having the lone home run. JD and Hosmer combine for 0-12. He's a very good pitcher, but we've gotten to him before. It can happen again.
So it’ll be a quick 2 game series before we see the Orioles for a makeup game, then we get to the Yankees. I’d very much prefer to roll into those games with 2 wins, but that’s highly unlikely in my opinion. But hey, it’s baseball, anything can happen.