How Huascar Ynoa gives Atlanta Braves the edge in NL East race

How Huascar Ynoa gives Atlanta Braves the edge in NL East race
May 16, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa (19) delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves recently got right-hander Huascar Ynoa back from the injured list with the 23-year-old taking the hill for the first time in three months Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins. Ynoa tossed 5.1 scoreless innings while surrendering just four baserunners in LoanDepot Park.

Thanks to Atlanta sweeping the Marlins, as well as the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets sliding of late, suddenly the Braves are in command in the NL East. A team that once looked dead in the water has a pulse, and Ynoa’s return to the hill adds all the more life to their playoff hopes.

Here’s how a healthy Ynoa gives the Braves the edge when it comes to winning the NL East.

Huascar Ynoa further stabilizes an improving Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation

Huascar Ynoa further stabilizes an improving Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation
Apr 23, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Huascar Ynoa (19) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ynoa has impressed in his first season as a fixture in manager Brian Snitker’s rotation, when healthy that is.

Huascar Ynoa stats (2021): 2.70 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 169 ERA+ and 54 strikeouts across 50.0 innings (10 appearances, nine of which are starts)

The homegrown hurler has found success while severely relying on his slider and fastball. Over time, he’ll have to incorporate other offerings on a more consistent basis. In the meantime, though, Ynoa has been efficient. He’s keeping runners off the basepaths, logging strikeouts at a plausible rate and giving the Braves the chance to hit their way to victory.

Atlanta’s pitching staff has been all over the place this season due to both injuries (Ynoa and Mike Soroka) and inconsistency. That said, Max Fried and Charlie Morton have continually picked up speed this summer, returning to being top-of-the-rotation forces. The trio of Fried, Morton and Ynoa gives the Braves a stable starting core to get them past the regular season finish line.

Furthermore, Ynoa’s return to the rotation moves a starter to the bullpen, theoretically deepening the relief corps. Snitker and the Braves need all the help they can get in the late innings. Now they have someone else who can get the ball to the bullpen in the final third of the game, alleviating some of their workload.

Atlanta Braves’ NL East rivals are volatile

The NL East is a competitive division but one that has disappointed this season, as the Braves lead the cluster at just 65-56. Them doing as such speaks to the volatile nature of those they’re attempting to fend off more so than themselves.

The Phillies recently won eight games in a row and made a midseason move for Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy, beefing up their pitching staff. Unfortunately for the Philly faithful, their deeply talented ballclub continues to struggle to garner consistency, as they’re the healthiest team in the division and continue to play collective .500 baseball.

The Mets have fallen apart. While Jacob deGrom’s absence plays a role, they recently got Carlos Carrasco off the injured list while their multifaceted offense has struggled mightily. We haven’t yet mentioned their chronic struggles in the late innings, albeit it seems that’s the case with every team in this division.

Both the Phillies and Mets have playoff-caliber ballclubs, but they do nothing on the field to make one realistically envision them playing in October. The Braves do, and it’s because they’re a ballclub with a fundamentally sound establishment.

They field their positions well, work the count, have a bevy of sluggers and now have an improved rotation compared to earlier in the season. This team always has a chance.

Huascar Ynoa and the Atlanta Braves are in the driver’s seat

Huascar Ynoa
May 4, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Huascar Ynoa (19) delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing the Braves are doing of late is wowing, but it doesn’t have to be. They’re basically winning three out of every five, steadily improving their record and taking control of the NL East.

To their credit, the Braves approached the weeks leading up to the MLB trade deadline, when they were mired in mediocrity from a record standpoint, with a buying mindset. This mentality came with Ronald Acuna Jr. recently tearing his ACL, Marcell Ozuna off the field due to a domestic violence investigation and Soroka having a season-ending setback in his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon.

Atlanta acquired five hitters last month: Stephen Vogt, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler. They added depth, power and proven commodities to their positional depth chart.

In the present, the Braves are playing their best baseball of the season, making their trade deadline moves all the more impactful. Ynoa’s return is the cherry on top. As long as he continues to be a reliable starter who keeps the Braves in games (think surrendering no more than three runs per game), it does wonders for their reputable offense which features the likes of Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley.

This isn’t the team the Braves envisioned being in first place in mid-August. At the same time, they’re the most proven team in the division and have been there, done that with midseason adversity. Before Huascar Ynoa’s return (a week ago), they were the safe bet to win the division. Now that he’s healthy, the Braves have the clear upper hand to win the division.

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