Braves Preview: Atlanta start six-game road trip with Toronto

Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

The early season AL East gauntlet continues on Friday, with the Atlanta Braves heading North to open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Atlanta split a two-game set with the Boston Red Sox after taking two of three from the Baltimore Orioles at home at Truist Park.

Much like that series with Baltimore, there's a good chance of some close games with an October feel over the next few days against a Toronto team loaded with talent.

What to Watch for in Friday's game

Pitch Count Problems

It's a bit of a first-world problem for a guy who has struck out an average of nine batters per start, but Spencer Strider hasn't gone deep in a lot of games to start 2023. Through seven starts, he's made it through six innings in just three of them.

It took him 107 pitches to get through five innings against the Mets last month, and 95 to get through his last start against Baltimore.

This Toronto lineup is very similar to what the Braves roll out, top ten in hits, runs, and also, drawing walks. Against the red-hot Matt Chapman, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., quick innings will be pivotal two days after Atlanta used eight pitchers in its bullpen game.

YRFI (Yes, run first inning)

Opposite of Strider, a familiar face with former New York Met Chris Bassitt taking the hill for the Blue Jays on Friday.

He's struggled a bit to open 2023, with his ERA sitting above 4.00 through his first seven starts. His biggest issues have been walks (BB/9 of 4.5, near the bottom of MLB), and getting shelled in the first inning of games. Buoyed by a four-run Cardinals first inning his first start of 2023, Bassitt has a 12.86 ERA in the opening frame of games this season.

A patented Ronald Acuña Jr. lead-off homer to open the game sounds like the perfect way to bump those numbers up another digit or two.

Rosario on a run

Very quietly, Eddie Rosario has started to figure it out at the plate.

The 31-year old outfielder is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak (.344/.364/.801 in that stretch), and a 14-game on-base streak.

He's punishing pitchers who throw him fastballs right now, hitting .366 off fastballs in 2023. He's also hitting the ball harder, with him barreling the ball at a higher rate with a higher average exit velocity.

However, Rosario is still striking out of a 25% clip, and chasing a lot of balls out of the zone.Baseball Savant lists him in the 2nd percentile of chase rate, which is how often a batter swings at a pitch outside of the zone.

It would be a welcome sign for the Braves offense if he's able to maintain at least some of that consistency heading into the summer with the starting rotation getting thinner.

Braves (25-12) at Blue Jays (21-16)
When: 7:07 p.m. ET
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada
How to Watch: BSSO
How to Listen: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan