The Atlanta Braves have shown they can hit. The challenge has been to piece together enough innings from their starting pitchers. They’ll try again on Friday when they visit Washington for the second of a four-game series at Nationals Park.
The Braves will turn to veteran right-hander Josh Tomlin (2-2, 3.77 ERA), who will oppose Washington right-hander Erick Fedde (1-3, 5.29).
The Braves (26-18) have had 25 games in which their starter has completed four or fewer innings. That’s the most in the National League. By comparison, the 2014 Braves had just seven starts of four innings or less. It happened again on Thursday when Robbie Erlin covered only 1 2/3 innings.
“(Erlin) was only going to go two or three innings, and it got away from him in a hurry,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We just wanted him to get the thing off the ground.”
Snitker said asking the bullpen to continue to cover most of the game is certainly unusual and taxing.
“You probably only normally experience it in playoff baseball,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do when you back to eight guys (on the pitching staff).”
Tomlin will make his fifth start of the season since being moved to the rotation. The team’s problem with starting pitchers caused the switch, and Tomlin has had sporadic success. He was given additional rest prior to Sunday, his most recent start, and he allowed only one run in six innings against the Nationals.
Tomlin is 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA in 10 career appearances against Washington, three of them starts.
Fedde has faced the Braves once this year, taking a no-decision on Saturday. He pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs and three home runs in that outing. He is 0-1 with a 17.36 ERA in three career appearances, including two starts, against the Braves.
Until that start against the Braves, Fedde had given the Nationals five or six innings in three straight outings. His best start came Aug. 14 at Baltimore, when he threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings and earned his lone victory.
Since then he has allowed 14 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings over three starts. Nine of those earned runs have come via six home runs.
Washington may have a pitching problem, too. Left-hander Sean Doolittle, typically one of the Nationals’ most reliable late-inning guys, sustained an undisclosed lower body injury while working in the ninth inning.
The Nationals (16-26) might also be without Juan Soto available to play the outfield, as his sore left elbow is limiting him to DH duty. Also, Washington placed reserve outfielder Howie Kendrick on the injured list with a left hamstring strain and recalled 32-year-old rookie Yadiel Hernandez.
“We don’t know when Juan can throw again,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I want to keep him — unless he’s 100 percent — just let him DH and hit for the time being. We felt like Yadiel’s been swinging the bat really well.”
Hernandez was Washington’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2019 and had 33 homers and 90 RBI. He entered Thursday’s game as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning.
–Field Level Media