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Stingy starters clash as Red Sox open 2-game series at Atlanta

Sportsnaut
Apr 23, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Boston Red Sox pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The focus will be on the starting pitchers when the Boston Red Sox visit the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday to start a two-game interleague series.

The Red Sox starters have allowed two or fewer runs in 14 of their past 17 games and the Braves have allowed three or fewer runs in 16 of their 30 games.

That indicates runs may come at a premium on Tuesday when Boston sends right-hander Garrett Whitlock (1-1, 1.25 ERA) against Atlanta right-hander Kyle Wright (3-1, 1.74).

Whitlock has made three starts and allowed only two earned runs over 12 innings in that role. In his most recent start against the Los Angeles Angels last Wednesday, he retired the first 13 batters he faced before allowing a single in the fifth inning. Whitlock gave up two runs and struck out nine over a career-high five innings.

Whitlock leads the majors with a 0.69 WHIP and a .185 opponent’s on-base percentage. Opponents are hitting just .143 against him. It’s part of the discussion the team is having about the best way to use Whitlock, especially since Boston’s bullpen has been struggling.

Whitlock appeared in 46 games as a rookie in 2021, all in relief, and had a 1.96 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings.

“Obviously we saw what (Whitlock) did last year, we saw what he did early on, but he has done an amazing job starting for us, too,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “It doesn’t really matter. He’s not going to pitch every day. The other guys have to step up and so far it has been inconsistent.”

Wright has ascended to become Atlanta’s top right-handed starter in the early portion of the season. The 2017 first-round pick has produced quality starts in each of his first five starts, two of them six-inning scoreless outings.

Wright took his first loss in his most recent start last Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets when he allowed three runs over seven innings. Wright didn’t have his overpowering stuff — a season-low three strikeouts — but he kept the game close.

“There’s been a lot of guys that have come through this game with great stuff but never put it together,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “This young man is showing that he’s on that road.”

Wright has two career appearances, one start, against the Red Sox. He has a 2.08 ERA after allowing two runs in 8 2/3 innings. He made his major league debut in relief against Boston in 2018.

The Braves are coming off a 2-1 series win against the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. The Red Sox have dropped five in a row after being swept in a three-game series by the Chicago White Sox.

The Red Sox are 4-14 over their past 18 games and have been hurt by the inability to win a close game. Of their 29 games, 17 have been decided by two or fewer runs, 10 by one run.

Atlanta right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. extended his streak of reaching base to 23 straight games, the longest in the National League. His streak goes back to June 25, before he suffered a season-ending knee injury on July 10. He has reached safely in all nine games played this year.

–Field Level Media