The reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves, who will try to complete a four-game road sweep of the Miami Marlins on Sunday, are not just a baseball power.
They are also riding an impressive youth movement during a five-game winning streak that includes a doubleheader sweep of the Marlins on Saturday, 5-2 and 6-2.
For a team that reached the sport’s pinnacle in 2021, the Braves have tons of upside considering the ages of some of their best players, including third baseman Austin Riley, 25; and right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., 24.
Star second baseman Ozzie Albies, 25, is on the injured list, but he is another big part of the franchise after banging 40 doubles and 30 homers last year.
Power-hitting first baseman Matt Olson is a bit older — he’s all of 28 — but he signed an eight-year deal with the Braves in March after he was acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s. He enters play Sunday with homers in three straight games and a total of 24 for the season.
Catcher William Contreras is only 24, and multiple members of the rotation are under 30: Max Fried (on the injured list), 28; Kyle Wright, 26; and rookie Spencer Strider, 23. Starting pitcher Ian Anderson, 24, was a key performer for Atlanta last year but was recently demoted to the minors to regain his form.
In addition, Atlanta’s rookie class of 2022 includes a pair of 21-year-olds: center fielder Michael Harris II and second baseman Vaughn Grissom. Harris looks like an emerging star (11 homers, 13 steals through 68 games), and Grissom has been a starter since arriving in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Then there’s Chadwick Tromp, 27, who was pressed into duty on Saturday due to Atlanta’s shortage of catchers. All he did was go 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs in his Braves debut.
“It was like riding a bike, another day at the office,” said Tromp, mixing his metaphors. “You’re in Triple-A, staying ready the whole year. You come here and help the team win.”
The Braves will start 23-year-old Bryce Elder (1-3, 5.48 ERA) on Sunday after he was recalled from the minors between games of Saturday’s doubleheader. The rookie right-hander has made four starts and one relief appearance for Atlanta this year, never lasting more than 5 2/3 innings.
In his lone appearance against Miami, Elder walked six and gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings during an April 24 loss.
Elder will oppose Marlins lefty Braxton Garrett (2-6, 4.02 ERA). Miami is 5-7 in games started by Garrett, including a current three-game losing streak.
Garrett has just three quality starts this year, and all of them came in July, when he posted a 3.00 ERA in five appearances. He had a 5.24 ERA in June, and he owns a 4.35 ERA so far through two August starts.
He has faced the Braves just once in his career, taking a loss on Aug. 16, 2021. In that game, Garrett walked six batters and allowed three hits and three runs in three-plus innings.
Garrett is part of a pitching staff that has the 11th-best ERA in the majors (3.81). The Marlins have National League Cy Young Award candidate Sandy Alcantara and a solid second starter, Pablo Lopez.
From there, Garrett and others are hoping to make it a great rotation.
“Our pitching staff is what gives us hope as an organization,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday.
On offense, though, it’s been a different story, as Miami ranks 27th in OPS (.669) and runs scored (429). The Marlins have scored three runs or fewer in 14 consecutive games, going 3-11 during that span.
Two injury situations to watch for on Sunday involve Acuna and Marlins reliever Anthony Bender. Acuna was seen limping on Saturday and was removed in the seventh inning of the second game due to right knee soreness. He is day-to-day.
Bender was removed in the ninth inning of the nightcap because of an ailing forearm. There was no immediate update on his condition.
–Field Level Media