The Braves’ $13 million midseason addition owns an ERA approaching 5.00 through 10 starts. However one slices it, that’s disappointing – but it doesn’t have to be a predictor of the future.
Dallas Keuchel was torn apart on Thursday by a Marlins offense that had been stoic. The Braves lost in Miami for the first time this season, 9-2, but the more troubling development is how their veteran lefty has performed.
He was smacked around in 3-2/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 10 hits. It was his worst statistical outing in exactly two years, when he posted a near identical line against the White Sox.
“For myself, I didn’t see myself going 3-2/3,” said Keuchel, who prides himself on eating innings. “But stuff happens. Sometimes you get your butt beat. That’s why you have four other starters to pick up some slack when this thing happens.”
Keuchel has allowed 15 earned runs over his past three starts (16-1/3 innings), raising his ERA to 4.83. He isn’t a fireballer, comfortably living in the high 80s, making control all-the-more paramount. But Keuchel isn’t just giving up hits – he’s getting crushed.
The 31-year-old generated just seven swinging strikes out of 82 pitches. He relied mostly on his two-seamer and cutter (67 pitches), which registered only two swinging strikes each. Opponents posted an average exit velocity of 104.8 against his 28 cutters. His change-up was effectively useless, resulting in one strike on nine throws.
“It just wasn’t his night, that’s all,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Guys have those nights. You have a hard time making pitches, they don’t miss you, they’re seeing you good – it’s just one of those games. He’s been through it, been there, done that. It’s just one of those games. He’ll get an extra game, pitch Tuesday, come out prepared and probably throw eight shutout innings.”
A ground-ball aficionado, Keuchel allowed three homers. Brian Anderson – a fellow Arkansas product - was responsible for two, plastering a two-seamer and cutter. It was the fourth time in five starts Keuchel hasn’t pitched more than six innings.
There’s plenty of time to sort himself out before October. And if the eye-test is of any value, Keuchel has outpitched his numbers. But there are reasons for concerning, including a massive dropoff in strikeout percentage on his cutter (17 to 6) from a season ago.
Keuchel was brought in as the steady presence in the rotation. In theory, Keuchel, Mike Soroka, Julio Teheran, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz could potentially comprise one of the league’s best groups. Each has their own obstacles to overcome for that to materialize.
“Very frustrated,” Keuchel said. “Just got to stick with it and we’ll be better next time. Tomorrow’s a new day. I actually thought I threw some good sliders today so that was really nice to see. It’s just one of those days you’re happy the game is over with.”
Ronald Acuna smacked a solo shot in the eighth to put the Braves on the board. It achieved his first 30-homer season in the majors. He needs four more steals to join the 30-30 club.
The Braves will try to bounce back behind Julio Teheran on Friday. The Marlins will start left-hander Caleb Smith, whose 3.35 ERA is best on the team.
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