A few eyebrows were raised when Atlanta manager Brian Snitker went to a non-traditional lineup. No one is laughing now.
The day after the Braves were blanked by Miami, Snitker set the top of the order with sluggers Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna in the top three slots. The Braves are 4-1 since the change and have scored at least seven runs four times, including their historic 29-run outburst.
“That’s a rough three guys to go through,” Snitker said. “You have to go through them three or four times, that’s tough duty for a pitcher. … It’s a very deep lineup. I feel if we keep the game in check, it’s not going to happen all the time, but with 27 outs we’re going to put some runs on the board.”
The hottest Atlanta hitter is Ozuna, who was 8-for-18 with six RBIs in the Washington series. Ozuna is tied with teammate Freeman (.339) for the National League lead with 43 RBIs.
Freeman has reached base in 29 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors, after going 2-for-3 with two walks on Sunday. Acuna has six homers in 11 games this month.
The Braves continue their road trip on Monday when they start a three-game series in Baltimore. The Orioles will start right-hander Jorge Lopez (1-0, 6.38 ERA) against Atlanta right-hander Touki Toussaint (0-1, 7.89 ERA).
Atlanta (28-19) and Baltimore (20-26) have not played since 2015.
Lopez will be making his fourth start of the season. In his last outing on Sept. 9 against the New York Mets, he received no decision after surrendering five runs on six hits, with a season-high six strikeouts, in 4 2/3 innings.
He has made one career appearance against the Braves. That was two innings of scoreless relief while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018.
The Braves will give Toussaint another shot in the rotation. It will be his fifth start. In his last start on Aug. 17, he allowed four runs in three innings. Toussaint has never faced the Orioles.
Unlike the Braves, Baltimore has had trouble scoring runs. The Orioles have dropped five straight and were swept in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium, where they totaled only three runs against New York. The Orioles are 0-16 when they score three or fewer runs.
“The bottom line is, we’re having a tough time scoring runs here,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve got to be able to score some runs.”
There have been positives for Baltimore. In September, D.J. Stewart has hit six home runs and Ryan Mountcastle has driven in 11 runs. Rio Ruiz, who played in the Braves organization from 2016-18, has 10 RBIs for the month. The offense may get a lift this week when center fielder Austin Hays returns from a nondisplaced rib fracture during the series.
“I’m looking for him just to go play,” Hyde said. “I believe in the player. I think he’s extremely talented. I like him offensively. I like him defensively. I like that he’s able to hit the ball to all fields.”
–Field Level Media