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Series Preview # 19: Diamondbacks vs Braves

This series is about who has the better rotation with three great pitching matchups.

Soroka fist bump before gametime.
Soroka fist bump before gametime.
Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

“Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial used the fist bump during the 1950–60s as an alternative to shaking hands.” - Wikipedia

The Braves are a great team.

Only 2 years ago (2021) they won the World Series by beating the Astros. This season, by a large margin, the Braves are in first place in the NL East Division. The most frequent internet power ranking is that the Braves are the second best team in the Majors.

This season the Braves scored 5.04 runs scored per game, which is the same as the Diamondbacks. The difference between the teams is runs allowed per game (Braves 4.00 vs D-backs 4.62).

Considering that the Diamondbacks are better defenders (17 DRS vs 10 DRS), the Braves pitchers were the difference makers. Can the excellent Diamondbacks offense outgun the excellent Braves pitching? This series will reveal the answer.

Memorial Day is when teams evaluate their post-season chances and their needs at the trade deadline.

The Diamondbacks and the Braves are passionate about winning games. How did they stand on Memorial Day? Both teams have remarkable win-loss records!

  • The Diamondbacks win-loss record was 31-23, 3 games up on the NL wildcard threshold. Despite a recent 3-game losing streak (their first of the season), they play like a team that intends to reach the post-season.
  • The Braves win-loss record was 32-22, 4 games up in the NL East. They play like a team that intends to reach the World Series.

Because both teams intend to reach the post-season, it’s easy to anticipate them making trades to improve their teams.

  • Making great trades is a strength of the Diamondbacks. Where will they focus? The rotation has two veterans (Gallen and Kelly) who are pitching very well. Zach Davies is back and his first start (2 earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched) is about what can be expected going forward. His ceiling may be consistently matching his second start (3 earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched) . The other starting pitchers are inexperienced (each with less than 85 innings pitched in the Majors). Adding a proven starting pitcher to the rotation would make a difference in the post-season. In summary, they could focus on rotation opportunities.
  • This spring the Braves have had a few injuries to their starting pitchers, leading them to start rookies Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster. And this week Michael Soroka (who has not pitched in the Majors since 2020) joined their rotation. Clearly, the Braves could focus on adding a proven pitcher to their rotation.

Will both teams add to their rotation at the trade deadline? We will know by the trade deadline.

Michael Soroka’s journey back from injury was long and arduous.

In the three seasons before his injury, his ERA+ was excellent (118, 171, and 121). Then he tore his archilles tendon in the 2020 season. He had three surgeries; he had a long rehab; and this spring he injured his hamstring.

His first start back was better than I expected; no hits until the third inning and no runs until the fifth inning, when the Athletics scored 4 runs. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning. His start was disappointing for the Braves because they lost against the Athletics, who thereby broke their 11 game losing streak.

Michael Soroka will pitch against the Diamondbacks in the third game of their series. Whether or not he pitches well, his years-long perseverance is admirable. His performance is worth watching.

My view is that he will not pitch as well as he did in 2020. Reasons follow:

  • His WHIP in AAA was worse than before his injury (1.12 and 1.33 in 2022/2023 compared to .848 and .643 in 2018/2019). (data from
  • Although on the surface in a recent AAA game (23 May) he pitched well (1 earned run in 6 innings and with 34.8% of his batters striking out), his whiffs per pitch (estimated at .07) were too few and his balls-in-play per strike were too high (estimated at .55).
  • This season, in his first start in the Majors since 2020, he allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings.

The Wild Card Race.

This season is exciting! If it was over today, the Diamondbacks would be the top wild card team in the NL. Details are in the following table (games through 1 June):

Data from Baseball Reference and

The Diamondbacks need to win at least one game this series with the Braves to stay ahead of the Mets, Pirates, and Marlins and thereby remain the favorite to win a wild-card in the NL.

The Pitching Matchups

Friday 6:40 PM Arizona Time, Charlie Morton (3.59 ERA, 3.80 FIP) vs Merrill Kelly (2.83 ERA, 3.41 FIP).

This game is a battle between veteran pitchers. Charlie Morton, age 39, is by far the oldest pitcher in the Braves rotation, while Merrill Kelly, age 34, is by far the oldest pitcher in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Charlie Morton is the ninth oldest active baseball player in the Majors. The eighth oldest is former Diamondback Zack Greinke.

Batting against Charlie Morton, two Diamondbacks have hit well - Ketel Marte’s 1.159 OPS in 9 PAs, and Christian Walker’s 1.400 OPS in 5 PAs.

Batting against Merrill Kelly, Austin Riley has an excellent OPS of 1.667 in 6 PAs. If the team option is exercised, Merrill Kelly will not be a free agent until 2026. That’s a great thing for the Diamondbacks.

Saturday 7:10 PM Arizona Time, Spencer Strider (2.97 ERA, 2.36 FIP) vs Ryne Nelson ( 5.37 ERA, 4.76 FIP).

This game is a battle of two young rotation pitchers, Spencer Strider, age 24, and Ryne Neson, age 25. These pitchers can look forward to many years in the Majors.

Although no current Diamondback has more than 2 PAs against Spencer Strider, Pavin Smith hit a home run. If the team option is exercised, Spencer Strider will not be a free agent until 2030.

No current Braves have any PAs against Ryne Nelson. Ryan Nelson will be a pre-arbitration player through 2025. He will not be a free agent until 2029.

Sunday, 1:10 PM Arizona Time, Michael Soroka (6.00 ERA, 6.45 FIP vs Zac Gallen ( 2.72 ERA, 2.09 FIP).

Michael Soroka will pitch in his second game of the season. As mentioned earlier, his perseverance to come back from injury is admirable. Perhaps he will keep the Braves in the game giving them chances to win the game.

Batting against Michael Soroka, Christian Walker has the most PAs (6) with an OPS of .667.

Zac Gallen is the Diamondbacks ace, and often talked about in discussions of receiving votes for the Cy Young. Nearly any game he starts makes the Diamondbacks the favorite to win.

Batting against Zac Gallen, two Braves have hit well - Ronald Acuna Jr.’s 1.000 OPS in 6 PAs, and Austin Riley’s 1.400 OPS in 5 PAs.