A pair of 11-game winners, both of them members of the 2023 National League All-Star team, will square off when the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates begin a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves on Friday.
Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (11-8, 3.93 ERA) will meet Atlanta right-hander Bryce Elder (11-4, 3.42) in the opener.
The Pirates, who did not play on Thursday, enter the series after taking two of three from the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Pittsburgh (65-75) has won seven of its past nine games.
The Braves (91-48) ended a three-game losing streak on Thursday with an 8-5 win over the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, salvaging one game of the three-game set.
Keller is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his past five outings since Aug. 8, tied for the sixth-lowest ERA in the major leagues during that span. He has 187 strikeouts this year, the 11th most in Pittsburgh history since 1900.
In his latest outing, he limited St. Louis to one run over six innings on Sept. 1, but he did not receive a decision.
“We’re getting some good, weak contact,” Keller said. “Just getting into good, advantageous counts for myself and then putting them away and making them hit my pitch.”
Keller has made four career starts against the Braves, going 0-2 with an 8.64 ERA. He received no decision against Atlanta on Aug. 8 after yielding three runs on nine hits in five innings.
Elder got a no-decision on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he gave up one run on five hits and four walks in six innings. He has a 2.22 ERA over his last four starts, three of them wins.
“I thought my stuff was better than it had been the past couple weeks,” Elder said. “Got wild a little bit but was able to work out of some stuff. Few walks there I’d like to limit, but I gave us a chance. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Elder has made only one career start against the Pirates, and it was one he would like to forget. He took the loss after being roughed up for five runs on six hits in five-plus innings during a 7-5 setback on Aug. 10.
Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson has homered in four straight games, one shy of his career best. Olson leads the major leagues with 47 homers and is four shy of tying the franchise record set by Andruw Jones in 2005.
The Braves hit 11 home runs in the series against St. Louis, and they lead the major leagues with 270.
Michael Harris II hit his 14th homer on Thursday. If he hits one more, he would become the ninth Atlanta player with 15-plus homers. No team has ever had 10 players hit 15. The Braves potentially could get there, but they would need a hot final month from Travis d’Arnaud, who belted his 11th on Thursday.
Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley was out of the lineup on Wednesday due to a stomach bug. He is expected to be available for the Pirates series.
—Field Level Media
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