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Series Preview #46: D-backs vs. Braves

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The Diamondbacks look to take advantage of a demoralized Braves team as the hellish September schedule gets under way.

MLB: Game Two-Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

September is finally upon us. The air is cooling down, the leaves are changing color, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing their most meaningful baseball of the season. 6 of the squad's last 7 series are against teams over .500, the only exception being a 3-game set against the Padres to end the season.

First among that list of division leaders and title contenders are the Atlanta Braves, who are comfortably holding on to first place in the NL East. That's not to say that it's been all smooth sailing in Braves-land however. They're fresh off an embarrassing sweep by the Boston Red Sox which included a game 3 that saw the Braves put on their best Atlanta Falcons impression and blow a 7-1 lead in the 8th and 9th innings. As great of a team as the Braves are, momentum plays a huge part in baseball, and right now they have practically none.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Game 1: RHP Zack Greinke (13-9, 2.97 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.98)

Anibal Sanchez is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. After sucking pretty hard in Detroit in the 2015, ‘16, and ‘17 seasons, Sanchez elected free agency. He was picked up by the Twins last offseason before being released 3 weeks later, after which the Atlanta Braves decided to take a chance on him.

While much of Sanchez’s improvement can be attributed to simply pitching better, the biggest factor in his resurgence is likely the development of a cutter. Expect to see it often: it’s one of his favorite strikeout pitches.

Advantage: D-backs

Game 2: LHP Patrick Corbin (10-5, 3.06 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (9-9, 3.78 ERA)

Gausman was acquired by the Braves from the Orioles on the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Atlanta was hoping that a change of scenery would do the former 1st round pick some good, and so far their hopes have been confirmed. In 6 starts with the Braves, Gausman has posted a 1.66 ERA with an opponent triple slash of .190/.240/.270.

Advantage: D-backs

Game 3: RHP Clay Buchholz (7-2, 2.05 ERA) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (9-7, 4.05 ERA)

After an extremely shaky start to the season, Teheran has settled down to become a serviceable pitcher at the bottom of the Braves’ rotation. August was his best of the season: 2.82 ERA, .173/.255/.252, .507 opponent OPS.

Advantage: D-backs

Game 4: LHP Robbie Ray (5-2, 4.25 ERA) vs. RHP Touki Toussaint (1-1, 3.38 ERA)

I’ll discuss Touki more in the Players to Watch section. Just know that he has the potential to be something very special.

Advantage: Even

Players to Watch

OF Ronald Acuña Jr. - The Venezuelan phenom has taken the baseball world by storm and is basically a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the Year. In 342 AB's, the outfielder has slashed .289/.359/.570 with 24 homers — 8 of which have been leadoff, a new Braves record — and 47 total XBH. At just 20 years old, Acuña is only going to get better. We could very well be looking at the next great.

RHP Touki Toussaint - Another gift to the Braves from former Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, Toussaint was drafted by the D-backs 16th overall in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft. Toussaint has been dominant in his short time in the majors, the only real blemish on his record coming from a bad 4th inning against the Red Sox on Monday.

While Toussaint has a solid 93-96 MPH fastball that he does a good job of locating, his best pitch is his curveball. The curve clocks in at around 76 MPH and is Touki’s best swing-and-miss pitch. As Touki develops further, his curveball may very well become one of the best in baseball.

Thanks again, Stewart.

Prediction

My mind is telling me split but my heart is telling me sweep, and I’m (sadly) more inclined to go with my heart. The Diamondbacks are rolling out their best starters for this series, and assuming the offense can pick up from where it left off on Tuesday and Robbie Ray can continue his newfound dominance, this series will be the shot in the arm that propels the Snakes through a very tough September schedule.

Poll

How do you think the D-backs will fare against the Braves?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    0 wins (Swept...)
    (4 votes)
  • 15%
    1 win
    (9 votes)
  • 38%
    2 wins (Split)
    (23 votes)
  • 25%
    3 wins
    (15 votes)
  • 15%
    4 wins (Sweep!)
    (9 votes)
60 votes total Vote Now