Braves’ starting rotation a big reason for team’s success this season

SAN FRANCISCO — When discussing the Braves, you often think about an offense that could be the best in baseball – the one that turned a four-run deficit into a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning in Seattle. The talent jumps off the page when you look at their roster.

The Braves’ rotation, however, might not get enough credit. This season, the group has perhaps exceeded expectations.

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The Braves might have as good of a rotation as anyone in baseball.

“I feel that way,” manager Brian Snitker said Monday. “I think that’s one of the keys to our success, is we have a rotation. It’s when you have that stability and those guys, it adds a lot. … I think we’ve shown how important it is to have a consistent rotation.”

Yes, the offense is dangerous. Yes, this team can win shootouts. But the Braves’ sustained success would not be possible without their rotation.

Max Fried will get National League Cy Young votes. Spencer Strider may win NL Rookie of the Year. Kyle Wright has been one of the sport’s top breakout players. Despite his inconsistency, Charlie Morton has still contributed.

And Atlanta’s rotation has taken shape in an opposite way than anyone could have imagined.

You expected Fried to be the club’s ace, but Wright’s season is a pleasant surprise. Strider has blown away all expectations. We all expected Morton and Ian Anderson to be a huge part of the season, but the Braves sent down Anderson and Morton’s best might be ahead.

The Braves have also kept their rotation remarkably healthy. They have not had any serious injuries. Snitker credited pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Drew French for helping with this.

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“I think a lot of it, in my opinion, is in between starts,” Snitker said. “I don’t think they’re going to break down starting, I think you have to monitor effort in between and gauge how much they throw, so they do all their pitching on the fifth day. That’s what Kranny and Drew have a really good feel for. I think that’s big in getting guys through the season.”

The Braves’ rotation even performed well while the club tried to find solutions for its fifth starter spot. They tried Huascar Ynoa. They went with Bryce Elder. They then stuck with Anderson until they no longer could.

Since the Braves acquired Jake Odorizzi from Houston for left-handed reliever Will Smith, he has posted a 4.97 ERA over six starts. This is not good – as a whole. It requires a closer look, even after a rough start in Seattle.

After moving to a new team, Odorizzi did not pitch well. Then he made a mechanical adjustment during a rain delay in a start versus the Mets and threw well to finish that outing. Then, he held the Pirates to one run over six innings. He followed that with two runs over 5 ⅔ innings in St. Louis, a game in which he held the Cardinals hitless for most of his start. His return from arm fatigue did not go well, but he had shown progress before going two weeks between starts.

There is no perfect roster. Around baseball, even contenders are dealing with certain question marks. The Braves are not flawless, but they have gone on an unreal run since the start of June.

Yes, they hit lots of homers. Yes, they hang tons of crooked numbers.

Don’t forget about that rotation, though.

Kyle Wright’s arm was ‘dragging’

Strider was the Braves’ starter Monday in San Francisco. He flipped spots with Wright, who will go on Tuesday.

Wright said he needed an extra day because his arm was “dragging.” What does this mean? Well, think of it as his arm feeling sluggish.

“I feel like it’s just kind of lagging behind a little bit,” Wright said. “It’s not quite on time to make the pitch sometimes.”

Wright said this is different than the arm fatigue he felt in August, when the Braves gave him extra rest.

“That one, I feel like it was very specific, and (I was) just kind of worn down,” Wright said. “This one, it feels more like it’s truly September. That’s kind of what we pointed out – just normal September fatigue. Main thing is just giving me an extra day to help me stay strong and finish strong for however long we play.”

Wright said this case is nothing major. He simply needed additional rest.

This is his first full season in the majors, meaning he is learning to balance the workload. His arm is adjusting.

He’s still learning. Baseball, Wright said, is a grind at every level.

“But just the magnitude of the games up here, the third level, it just kind of adds a little bit more natural intensity to the game, a little more stress,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a way to really truly prepare for it other than just going through it.”

Brian Snitker on Anthony Varvaro: ‘It breaks my heart’

On Sunday, Snitker heard the news that Anthony Varvaro, the former Braves reliever, died in an auto accident. Varvaro was a Port Authority police officer headed to the World Trade Center Command to serve at an event that commemorated 9/11 when the accident happened.

Snitker was a third-base coach for the Braves when Varvaro pitched for the club.

“It breaks my heart,” Snitker said Monday. “Wonderful young man and just tragic. I’m still processing the two sheriffs that were ambushed down the street from where I live. Yesterday was horrible news. And he was going to a 9/11 memorial service. It’s terrible. He had four kids, he was 37 years old. It’s just horrible.”