RECORDS: White Sox 60-73 Braves 81-54
GAMETIMES: Friday/Saturday 6:20, Sunday 4:10
TV: NBCSN Friday/Saturday, WGN Sunday
PROBABLY NOT AT THE GOLD CLUB: Talkin’ Chop
Atlanta in late August wouldn’t be high up the list of places you want to be at this time, but the schedule says the Sox have to descend on the Dirty South. There they’ll get a look at the NL’s second-best team, the Atlanta Braves, and maybe a glimpse at what they hope to be in a year or two’s time.
The Braves have been able to hold off the Nationals’ lava-streak since the middle of May at arm’s length, still maintaining a 5.5-game lead in the NL East. They haven’t been under threat since they themselves turned it on all the way up, in May just like DC. They’ve gone 67-39 since May 1st, after a ho-hum April opening to the season. It’s truly impressive as the Braves don’t get to harvest on the organs of a weak division like the Dodgers do or teams in the AL. The East has four playoff contenders, even if the Phillies and Mets are flawed remain decidedly the Phillies and Mets. And the Braves just got done sweeping the Mets in Queens to exhibit that, which apparently is the hot new trend in the NL. And we’d better get used to this, because the Braves don’t look poised to go much of anywhere else anytime soon.
This is a blistering offense, but most of it is in the top half of the lineup. Ronald Acuna Jr. Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson toss you right into the deep end from the off, but there isn’t much behind that. Austin Riley briefly flashed, but then fizzled and then got hurt. Dansby Swanson has missed a chunk of time and has only been average when he has suited up. Nick Markakis hasn’t been able to back up his All-Star season from last and now finds himself on the IL, and Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann are around more for their defense. It’s Elvira top-heavy, though Matt Joyce of late has tried to remedy that.
The rotation isn’t going to wow anyone. Mike Soroka has been really good while doing it through ground-balls and control instead of the Fascist route of strikeouts. Max Fried has the stuff to do a lot better than a 4.08 ERA, but has had home-run problems thanks to a near-20% HR/FB rate. Dallas Keuchel has seemingly gotten around his delayed start to the season thanks to MLB owners’ cheapness, and still gets a ton of grounders (60.7%). But he too has had his home run issues. Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz are something of place-holders. It’s not what you’d guess a rotation looks like for a team running away with a very competitive division.
The pen needed some reshaping midseason, which is why they went out and got Mark Melancon and Shane Greene. Both have had their issues since arriving, though Melancon’s numbers are skewed by one ugly outing and has mostly been really good. Greene has some issues to work out still. The rest of the pen isn’t filled with too many names you know, though Sean Newcomb has been placed here after being replaced in the rotation and definitely has the stuff to be a dominating reliever.
If everything goes to plan, the White Sox will want a similar offense behind Anderson, Moncada, Jimenez, Robert, and Madrigal next season. They have the makings of a more useful rotation than the Braves have gotten, but if you have this man fireworks at the top of the lineup your rotation only needs to achieve “not fucking it up.”
The Sox just got done getting brained by one first place team. They’d like to avoid spending the weekend doing the same against another.