Photo: Nicolas Henderson
Atlanta Braves (1-2) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (0-2)
Ivan Nova (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Mike Foltynewicz (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Time: Friday – 1:05
The Pirates will toss Ivan Nova against Mike Foltynewicz in the home opener. Nova will get his first start to prove his new 26 million dollar contract was worth it. The Braves acquired Bartolo Colon (age 43), RA Dickey (42), Jaime Garcia (30), Sean Rodriguez (32), Kurt Suzuki (33) and Brandon Phillips (35) in the offseason. The Braves went in an interesting direction considering they project to finish the season well out of the playoffs. They likely signed these older players to build up some hype for the opening of their new stadium, while being able to keep their prospects progressing in the minor leagues.
Nobody was very optimistic about the Ivan Nova trade when it had happened. Then he went on to walk just 3 batters in 11 starts for the Pirates which lead him to a career high 3.06 ERA. If you factor in his time last year with the Yankees, he was less impressive but it is undeniable he had improved upon joining Pittsburgh.
Despite the Braves making additions in the offseason, Brandon Phillips is the only decent hitter that was acquired. He was acquired after former Pirate Sean Rodriguez was hurt in a car crash that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the year. Overall, the Braves lineup is nothing to worry about. The only hitter that the Pirates will need to worry about is Freddie Freeman. Last year, Matt Kemp actually led the team in home runs at 35. However, he only has a OBP of .304 and is basically a league average hitter at this point.
It’s going to be chilly at first pitch. A windchill of 24° and a 62% chance of rain are not ideal temperatures for a ball game, so it has a chance to be postponed. If the game is played, Vegas has the odds of the Pirates winning at 60%.
Chad Kuhl (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Time: Saturday – 7:05
R.A. Dickey returns to the NL for the first time since winning the Cy Young for the Mets in 2012. He was certainly not as good in Toronto as he was in 2012, but he adds an interesting effect for pitchers that come after him. There have been studies done about pitchers that pitch after knuckleballers and they show that pitchers outperform their usual numbers. Relievers that come in after Dickey pitches have the biggest boost, so it will be important to get to him early.
On paper this looks like a good matchup for Kuhl. The Braves will likely only have 3 lefties in the lineup, and of those Freeman will be the only one that should give him trouble. Kuhl’s fastball+slider combination works much better against right-handed hitters than it does lefties, so this should be a nice season debut for him.
Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Time: Sunday – 1:35
The battle of the aces. Gerrit Cole’s first outing was a bit of a disappointment, whereas Teheran pitched 6 scoreless against the Mets. Sure, Gerrit Cole’s final line is bad. But he pitched well up until the 5th inning. And if a few things go differently, everyone would be talking about how Gerrit Cole looks like the stud from 2015 again.
Teheran is one of the more quietly good pitchers in the league. He is just 26, and has a career ERA of just 3.36. He struggles more against lefties than he does righties. Against righties, Teheran is one of the best in the league. However, against righties he is more league average. Because of that, I think this could be a good opportunity for Hurdle to start Frazier over Harrison. The Pirates certainly have a right-handed heavy lineup, so this one could be a tough game to win.