Braves Preview: Atlanta looks to continue hot streak against struggling Royals
By Chris Turner
After a series with Cincinnati highlighted by one-run wins, Atlanta turned the series opener with Kansas City into a home run derby.
The Braves got five home runs from five different players on Friday night in the 10-3 win, with the top half of the lineup putting together of one of the most eye-popping performances of the year so far. Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Austin Riley, and Sean Murphy combined to go 8-19 at the plate with four home runs, a double, and eight RBIs.
It's probably not likely Atlanta matches that output in back-to-back nights, but against Royals team that has lost four of its last five and is firmly at the bottom of the AL Central, the Braves are a threat to light up the scoreboard again.
What to watch for in Saturday's game
Acuña's reign of terror
There's only been about two weeks of baseball so far, but in those two weeks, very few people have been better than number 13 for the Atlanta Braves.
Acuña is slashing .390/.463/1.056 through 14 games. During this five-game hitting streak he's on, he's 12-20 (.600!), with a home run and seven RBIs. Just go look at his baseball savant page and stare in awe of how many of the top percentiles he's in currently for some offensive categories.
It's way too early, but with how he's playing at Matt Olson is playing, could the NL MVP award be heading to Atlanta one way or another?
Bubic vs. Bryce
While offense was the highlight of Friday's game, Saturday's game features two young starting pitchers who are off to very strong starts in 2023.
Kansas City's Kris Bubic has looked pretty good in two starts this year, striking out nine over six scoreless innings in his last start against San Francisco. His ERA on the year is under 2.00 through 11 innings of work, and he's yet to give up a home run. Worth a mention, his fastball is almost two MPH faster on average than last year.
As for Bryce Elder, he's still spotless in 2023, allowing no earned runs and striking out 13 through two starts for Atlanta this year. He's been giving up a lot of hard contact (average exit velocity allowed up to 91 MPH), but as of right now, none of those batted balls are falling.
A very underrated pitching match-up on the slate, at least on paper.
Friday night's lineup was probably the most effective lineup put together since the beginning of the season. It helps when your nine hole hitter is hitting .348 in a short time of work as a starting outfielder.
Injuries have shifted things around and brought people like Sam Hilliard into the lineup every day, Vaughn Grissom back from Gwinnett, and Sean Murphy behind the dish every day.
Once Michael Harris II, Orlando Arcia, and Travis d'Arnaud return, there will be some tough lineup decisions to make. Does Vaughn carve out a spot on the 26-man roster? Does Sam Hilliard get a better role in the outfield mix?
Those answers are still a week or two away, but for now, Atlanta shouldn't fix what isn't broken, and play the best lineup we've seen so far.