The Atlanta Braves will try to nail down the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs, but they will have to go through a Boston club that has gotten hot at the end of a lost season.
The Braves host the Red Sox in the final three-game series of the season. The Braves swept a three-game series at Fenway Park earlier this year.
Atlanta (34-23) has won four of its last five games and holds a two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the No. 2 playoff seed in the league — by virtue of having clinched the NL East (San Diego, in second place in the NL West, owns the NL’s second-best record at 34-22).
The Red Sox (22-35) have won three of their last four but remain in the cellar in the AL East.
The Red Sox will send right-hander Chris Mazza (1-2, 5.40 ERA) to the mound to face Atlanta right-hander Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74).
Mazza’s last start came on Sept. 19 against the New York Yankees. He worked four innings and allowed four runs, two earned, on five hits, three walks and one strikeout. Mazza has appeared in five games (three starts) in September and posted a 4.24 ERA.
Mazza has made two career relief appearances against the Braves. He’s 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.
Wright is finally showing the potential the Braves saw when they made him the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft. He has won his last two starts, beating Washington on Sept. 13 and throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball against the New York Mets on Sunday.
Wright has pitched only once against Boston, throwing two scoreless innings in a relief appearance in his big league debut on Sept. 4, 2018.
The Braves got some good news on Thursday when the club announced No. 1 starter Max Fried is expected to be ready for the first game of the playoffs. Fried turned his left ankle in the first inning of his start on Wednesday and had to leave the game.
“He’s moving around OK,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s a little sore. But all the tests were negative and he’ll just continue to get treatment and take it day-to-day. I think with everything they have going on in that training room, he’ll be good to go.”
Until Thursday’s 13-1 loss to Baltimore, the Boston pitching staff had posted its best monthly ERA for the season (4.95), averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Offensively, Boston right fielder Alex Verdugo had his 10-game hitting streak end on Thursday. It was his second streak lasting 10-plus games this season. He has only gone hitless in five of his last 42 games. During that time, he’s hitting .337 (56-for-166). Verdugo is batting .323 this season and has been a bright spot in a dismal season.
“I’m happy with the season that I’ve had,” Verdugo said. “But the competitor in me wants more. It’s just every year I see things that I think I can get better at, whether it’s stealing more bases, whether it’s hitting for a little bit more power, whether it’s hitting for a higher average, too.”
–Field Level Media