Braves @ phillies preview mccarthy-velasquez round 4, division in play – talking chop gas city indiana

The Braves did not fare particularly well in the latest iteration of the Mike Foltynewicz-Nick Pivetta saga, falling by a 3-0 score to trim the division lead to just half a game. That same lead is up for grabs tonight, and fans will be treated to yet another repeat pitching matchup: Brandon McCarthy versus Vince Velasquez. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how the first three rounds have gone:

• Round 1 went pretty well for the Braves. They pounded Velasquez for seven runs (four earned) and didn’t let him escape the third. McCarthy allowed just two runs in five and a third, and the Braves opened a can of agony on Philadelphia’s bullpen as the final score read 15-2.

• In Round 2, Velasquez fared better, allowing three runs in six innings. McCarthy was pretty much the same, allowing one run in five and a third. It was a three-run homer by Ryan Flaherty that did Velasquez in, and while the game ended up as 7-3, it was only 3-1 in favor of the Braves when both starters departed.

For 2018 as a whole, McCarthy’s season has been hit-or-miss. His 5.05 / 4.55 / 3.74 pitching triple-slash isn’t great. If you ignore his injury-shortened 2015, his current 130 ERA- is the worst of his career, and his 115 FIP- is his worst since 2008. The saving grace is that his xFIP is pretty good (93 on a minus basis), and the reality is that he’s been unfairly stung by balls in play and fly balls even while the pitching itself hasn’t been that great. McCarthy is 15th among starters with 100 or more batters faced this season in xwOBA underperformance, However, that underperformance doesn’t seem to be clustered around fly balls or home runs, so the reality for him may rest somewhere closer to his FIP than his xFIP, at least based on what he’s done to date.

On the positive side, McCarthy bounced back from a near career-worst stretch where he allowed 14 runs in eight and a third innings to throw six innings of one-run ball in his last outing against the Cubs. That was the best start of his season, and he should give the Braves a good chance to claim a victory if he can replicate that success tonight.

Despite being hammered by the Braves, Velasquez has actually had a pretty good season, especially when not facing hitters with “A”s on their batting helmets. Specifically, the most runs Velasquez has allowed to a team with some other letter on said helmet was three to the Giants a couple of starts ago; aside from that outing, he’s held all non-”A” helmet teams to one or zero runs. Overall, his pitching triple-slash is 4.34 / 4.07 / 3.87, and he’s on pace for an average-y starting pitching season with 0.6 fWAR in 47 and a third innings so far.

Like McCarthy, Velasquez is coming off a strong outing — he held the Cardinals scoreless for six and a third. Overall, since being hammered by the Braves in late April, he’s allowed just four runs in 17 and a third innings. Among qualified starters, he has the 19th-highest strikeout rate and 20th-highest K%-BB% rate this year. If he wasn’t so homer-prone (also 19th in MLB in highest HR/9 among qualified starters; 12th-highest fly ball rate), his numbers would look much better.

Hopefully the Braves will be able to get on track with the longball against Velasquez. The team is 12th in the majors in homers, but has only hit two in its last five games, with both of those coming in the same game. By comparison, they hit 10 homers in their previous five games before this short power outage-ish stretch.