Tuesday, May 14 - 7:05 p.m.
Rome Braves (20-15)
RHP Rafael Briceno (31.1 IP, 6.03 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 9.8 K%, 11.1 BB%, .310 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (21-15)
RHP Justin Schumer (8.1 IP, 16.20 ERA, 6.56 FIP, 8.3 K%, 18.8 BB%, .344 BABIP)
Both starters have had their struggles this season. Briceno has allowed a lot of contact and, although his BABIP indicates he hasn't had a ton of bad luck, he hasn't been able to last long in starts. But his past four outings have been more positive for the right-hander, going at least five innings in each. Briceno won't rack up strikeouts, but he avoids hard contact for the most part.
Schumer is just trying to make it through the first inning. He has failed to do so in each of his first two starts in the absence of Joan Gregorio, allowing 12 runs in only 1.1 innings over his past two outings. Schumer's struggles go beyond just spot starting, allowing three runs in seven innings of relief to start the season, including three walks and three strikeouts. But starting has compounded the problems, as it sometimes does.
Rome and Augusta combined for 26 hits in an 11-8 game Monday, but almost half of the Braves' 15 hits came in the ninth inning. The Braves struggled mightily in the first eight innings, committing three errors, numerous wild pitches and passed balls. The GreenJackets took advantage with 10 runs in the first five innings, and they seem to be jumping on mistakes much better lately.
Much of the success should be attributed to the lineup finally being healthy. The return of Joe Rapp is already proving valuable; it's no coincidence Augusta has scored double-digit runs in his first two games back. He provides a presence in the cleanup spot and allows Mitch Delfino to get even more RBI opportunities in the fifth spot. It also allows Shayne Houck and Matt Duffy to be guys who can move runners around and provide scoring chances. Both should have the best on-base numbers in the lineup by the end of the season, and having them second and third in the order is big.