Atlanta Braves fire baller Max Fried is seen here throwing against the Miami Marlins in the top of the first inning at Truist Field in Cobb County on Sun Sep 4, 2022. Fried and the Braves will pay a visit to the Oakland Coliseum Tue Sep 6, 2022 (AP News photo)
By Jerry Feitelberg
OAKLAND–The Oakland A’s are returning home after a short road trip to Washington and Baltimore. The A’s won two and lost four on the trip. They now have to face the defending World Champion Atlanta Braves for two games starting Tuesday in Oakland.
The A’s will be facing a team that came from behind in 2021 to win the National League crown and then went on to defeat a very good Houston Astros team four games to two. The Braves started slowly this year but have been on fire.
They trail the first place New York Mets by one game in the standings. Their record is 84-51. The Braves, the Mets, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the three best teams in the National League. The Braves sit in the first slot in the NL Wild Card race. They have a ten-and-a-half-game lead over the San Diego Padres.
The Braves are a very good team. Atlanta’s starting rotation is excellent. Their rotation includes the lefty Max Fried, righties Carlie Morton, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, and Jake Odorizzi. The Braves acquired Odorizzi at the trade deadline from the Houston Astros.
Former LA Dodger closer, Kenley Jansen, has not disappointed the Braves or their fans. Jansen has 31 saves so far this season. The big right-hander has recorded 381 saves in his illustrious career. In addition, the Braves traded for former Los Angeles Angels’ closer Raisel Iglesias.
Iglesias has 17 saves this season and 157 in his career. The Braves feature four left relievers in their bullpen. Their manager Brian Snitker will certainly be calling on lefties A.J.Minter, Tyler Matzek, Dylan Lee, and Kirby Yates to enter the game at some point in the series. The righties in the bullpen are Collin McHugh, former A’s reliever Jesse Chavez, and Jackson Stephens.
The Braves are loaded with talent at every position. Atlanta’s two catchers have provided the team with a lot of production. Travis d’Arnaud, a former Met, is hitting .265 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs. Rookie catcher William Contreras, the younger brother of the Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, has played well when handling the catching chores. Contreras has hit 17 dingers and knocked in 37.
The Braves lost former National League MVP to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves traded for the A’s power-hitting first baseman, Matt Olson, to replace the hard-hitting Freeman. Olson has shown the wisdom of the Braves front office in making the deal.
Olson has responded by belting 27 home runs and knocking in 87. The Braves’ outstanding second baseman Ozzie Albies is on the 60-day IL. Albies fractured his foot back in June. He is currently in rehab and will probably miss the series with the A’s. The Braves will use Vaughn Grissom, Ehire Adrianza, or Orlando Arcia at the position.
The left side of the Braves’ infield features two outstanding players. Their shortstop Dansby Swanson is hitting .282 with 17 dingers and 79 RBIs. Third baseman Austin Riley enters Tuesday’s game with a .287 batting average, and he has hit 35 balls to go along with 88 RBIs, good for sixth most in the National League.
The Braves will use three guys in left field. Their power-hitting left-fielder, Adam Duvall, is on the 60-day IL with a fractured wrist. The Braves acquired former A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman from the Detroit Tigers to help at that position.
Eddie Rosario also will see playing time in left. Marcel Ozuna, another slugger, can also be used. Ozuna had 21 dingers and 49 RBIs. The Braves have a 21-year-old phenom in center-field. Michael Harris has had 314 at-bats in his young career.
Harris is hitting .309 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. Ronald Acuna, Jr, another young, outstanding player, will be in right. Acuna is 24 years old. In his brief career, and after missing a lot of playing time due to an injury, he is hitting .273 with 11 big flies and 38 RBIs. For his career, he has a lifetime BA of .279 with 116 home runs and 284 knocked in.
Contreras, Ozuna, or Orlando Arcia will be the DH.
The A’s received two young players from the Braves in the Matt Olson trade. They are Cristian Pache and She Langeliers. Pache had a tough time earlier in the season and was sent down to work on his hitting. Langeliers spent most of the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Langeliers has shown that he deserves to play at the Major League level. While the A’s are having a dismal season, other young players like Nick Allen, Jonah Bride, Cal Stevenson, and Skye Bolt are showing what they can do on the diamond.
The pitching matchups for the two-game set will see the A’s send Cole Irvin (7-11, 3.35 ERA) for Tuesday night. Irvin did not pitch well in his last start against the Washington Nationals. He did get credit for the win. He was better in his outing against the Miami Marlins as he allowed three hits and one run in seven innings.
The A’s have not given Irvin much offensive support this season. The Braves starter will be Kyle Wright. Wright has had an excellent season for Atlanta. He is 17-5, and his ERA is 2.85. Wednesday night’s game will see A’s lefty Ken Waldichuk make his second big league start.
Waldichuk is 0-0, with an ERA of 1.93. Waldichuk made his debut against the Washington Nationals last week and went four and 2/3rds innings, allowing just one run. Spencer Strider will go for Atlanta. The game will start at 6:40 pm.
The young A’s would love to upset the Braves’ applecart. Under manager Mark Kotsay’s watchful eyes, the A’s will play hard. The A’s have nothing to lose. The Braves need every win as they are in a dogfight to win the NL East Division crown. Should they beat out the Mets for the title, they would have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. I think it will be a very interesting series