Braves’ Newcomb hopes to rebound vs. Marlins
MIAMI — He was born and raised 45 minutes away from Boston’s Fenway Park. His first collegiate win was a no-hitter over Yale. And, at age 25, he has already been a first-round pick and a trade chip.
On Thursday, Newcomb (10-6, 3.73 ERA) will open a four-game series at the host Miami Marlins.
The Braves are 13-11 when Newcomb starts this year, but his two most recent outings have been bombs, allowing 21 hits, five walks and 12 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Newcomb, whose average fastball is middle of the road in the majors at 93 mph, believes the key to getting back on track are his changeup and curve.
“The changeup being good has been a big help,” Newcomb told The Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier this year. “It’s starting to be something to keep guys off my fastball.”
Since making his major league debut last year, Newcomb is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts against the Marlins. So, perhaps pitching against Miami can revive Newcomb, who was brilliant in May (5-0, 1.54 ERA). He was also strong in June (2-1, 2.67 ERA) before posting a 2-4 record since. He had a 5.06 ERA in July and owns a 7.63 ERA so far in three August starts.
Newcomb on Thursday will face Marlins rookie right-hander Elieser Hernandez (2-6, 5.08 ERA).
Hernandez has a 1.13 ERA in four relief appearances against the Braves, covering eight innings.
But, as a starter, Hernandez is 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA.
Hernandez, a 23-year-old from Venezuela, doesn’t throw as hard as Newcomb, averaging just 90.5 mph. He is much better at home (2-4, 2.43 ERA) than on the road (0-2, 10.07).
August has been Hernandez’s best month so far as he has a 2.00 ERA in six relief appearances, covering nine innings.
As for the lineups on Thursday, the Braves are hoping to get back catcher Kurt Suzuki, who took a pitch off his elbow on Tuesday in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tyler Flowers has been starting while Suzuki is out, and the Braves have also recalled 38-year-old veteran catcher Chris Stewart from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Atlanta also is without its closer, Arodys Vizcaino, who has 29 saves over the past two years but is on the disabled list due to shoulder inflammation. He is expected to return next month.
Miami has injury issues of its own. Center fielder Lewis Brinson (hip), third baseman Martin Prado (quadriceps), first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper (right wrist), starting pitcher Caleb Smith (lat strain) and reliever Kyle Barraclough (back) are all out.
And starting pitcher Jose Urena is on the suspension list after hitting Braves star rookie Ronald Acuna with a pitch the last time these two teams played.
The Marlins are coming off a 9-3 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Miami infielder Miguel Rojas smashed a three-run homer as part of a five-run sixth inning.
Rojas delivered his shot — which was his 10th homer of the season — on the night that his mother and other family members flew in from Venezuela.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s something coming from upstairs (God) that always give me the chance to make something special for them,” Rojas said.
Pinch-hitter JT Riddle slugged a two-run homer in the eighth to pad Miami’s lead.
Meanwhile, the Braves beat the host Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Wednesday night as Jonny Venters earned just his second save of the season. A.J. Minter, who has taken over as Atlanta’s closer, was given the night off as he deals with an ailing back.
In addition, Acuna — a player the Marlins know well — hit his 20th homer of the season and his sixth while leading off a game. He has also hit 13 homers since the All-Star break.