The Atlanta Braves cooled down the red-hot New York Mets on the front end of their homestand. Now they get the opportunity to slow the Los Angeles Dodgers, tied for the most wins in all of baseball, when the two division leaders open a three-game series on Friday at Atlanta's SunTrust Park.
Atlanta took two of three this week from the Mets, who entered the series having won 15 of 17 games. Next up is a Los Angeles team that has won 12 of its last 15 games. But both the Braves and Dodgers enter their series on a losing note.
NL West-leading Los Angeles (81-42) was beaten 13-7 by the Miami Marlins on Thursday, while NL East-leading Atlanta (72-51) dropped a 10-8 slugfest to the Mets to miss out on the sweep.
This will be the second series between the teams this season, after the Dodgers swept a three-game set against the Braves in Los Angeles in May.
Maeda, 31, is in his fourth season since joining the team from a successful career in Japan. He is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in two career starts against the Braves. Maeda has allowed only two runs (one earned) and eight hits in 13 1/3 combined innings against Atlanta. He did not face the Braves in 2018 nor in their previous series this season.
Before his most recent start, Maeda suffered through back-to-back shaky outings, touched up for 11 runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. That concluded a run in which Maeda was 0-6 over 10 starts, placing his status in the rotation in jeopardy. But he rebounded last Saturday, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I was able to bring myself up and get more confident," he told reporters after the game.
Maeda relied more heavily on his fastball against Arizona and achieved better results. The change was obvious to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
"You can see the awkward swings they were getting," Roberts said. "He was striking the fastball, getting ahead, getting back in the count with the breaking ball. His fastball has life. When he throws it for a strike, located, it beats the bat and makes everything else play up."
Soroka is coming off a strong showing at Miami. He fired seven scoreless innings against the Marlins last Saturday, but was victimized when the Atlanta bullpen squandered the lead and left him with no decision. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker opted to pinch hit for Soroka in the eighth inning, even though he had only thrown 82 pitches.
"He went far enough," Snitker told the media after the game. "If he goes seven innings, he's done his job. We have to be able to cover two innings this time of year."
Soroka's last win was on July 14, even though his ERA in the ensuing five games is 2.56. He will be making his first career start against the Dodgers.
Los Angeles first baseman Cody Bellinger hit his league-leading 40th home run on Thursday. The Dodgers lead the league in home runs, with the Braves second. Atlanta hit six home runs on Thursday.
"I wouldn't say it's putting any more pressure to hit homers," Bellinger said. "I'm trying to stay within myself every day and keep going."
--Field Level Media