Braves’ Erlin faces Phillies, eyes continued success

MLB Baseball

Braves left-hander Robbie Erlin will be matched against the Philadelphia Phillies’ Zack Wheeler, a right-hander who was born and raised in the Atlanta area, in Saturday’s middle game of a three-game series at Atlanta.

The Braves won the opener 11-2 on Friday and have won three of five meetings between the two clubs this year.

Erlin (0-0, 5.40 ERA) was released by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates three weeks ago and selected off waivers by Atlanta on Aug. 7.

After one relief appearance, Erlin started against Miami on Sunday and fired four scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing only one hit in a 4-0 win. A similar outing would cement his spot in the rotation.

“A lot of credit goes to (catcher Tyler Flowers) back there,” Erlin said. “Just taking control of the game, incorporating the reports on how I like to pitch. Everything was great. I tried to really just throw the ball into his glove. Easy as that.”

“That was nice,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said after Erlin’s first start. “He’s a strike-thrower who can change speeds. I thought he looked pretty good.

“Had some good changeups, a little funky delivery. I think his fastball plays off that. Just the ability to throw the ball over the plate is so refreshing here.”

The Braves opted to skip the starts scheduled for Kyle Wright, who was sent to the alternate training camp on Thursday, and Touki Toussaint, instead opting to use Erlin and Josh Tomlin in the final two games of the Philadelphia series.

Erlin has made six career appearances against Philadelphia, three of them starts. He is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings against the Phillies. He faced them in his Atlanta debut on Aug. 10 and gave up four runs, including three home runs, in 2 2/3 innings.

Wheeler (3-0, 2.81 ERA) is living up to the high expectations that came when he signed as a free agent in the offseason.

In his latest start on Sunday, Wheeler defeated the New York Mets — his team for the previous seven seasons — by pitching seven innings and allowing two runs on six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He has been a workhorse, pitching no fewer than 5 2/3 innings in any of his four starts.

“It’s kind of always been my thing, get ahead, stay ahead and just get quick outs so you can go deep in games,” Wheeler said. “When I first came up in the big leagues, all the older guys were telling me you want to go seven innings or more, and so that kind of always stuck with me. That was always my goal.”

Wheeler will be making his first appearance of the season against Atlanta. He made 14 starts against the Braves while a member of the Mets, going 6-5 with 4.04 ERA.

Wheeler made his major league debut against Atlanta in 2013. Last season he was 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA in four starts against the Braves.

The Phillies will have a new-look pitching staff for the rest of the series.

Right-hander David Hale was obtained Friday from the New York Yankees in exchange for right-hander Addison Ross. Philadelphia also acquired right-handed pitchers Brandon Workman, a possible closer, and Heath Hembree from Boston for two right-handers, Nick Pivetta and minor-leaguer Connor Seabold.

–Field Level Media

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