MLB Starting pitchers aim to bounce back as Braves face D-backs

A pair of pitchers trying to bounce back from below-average starts will oppose each other Tuesday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks face the Atlanta Braves in the second game of a three-game set in Phoenix.

The Braves will send veteran Charlie Morton (3-3, 5.28 ERA) to the mound against Arizona’s Humberto Castellanos (3-2, 5.22) in a matchup of right-handers. The Diamondbacks won the first game of the series 6-2 on Monday to end a four-game losing streak.

Morton is trying to rediscover the form he had in back-to-back starts on May 8 and May 14, when he gave up one run over 11 innings in the two games. He has permitted seven runs in 9 2/3 innings in his two starts since then. Morton gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his most recent outing Wednesday against Philadelphia.

Morton has pitched well against the Diamondbacks. In 11 career starts against them, he is 5-1 with a 3.75 ERA. He faced Arizona once last season and received no decision, going six innings and giving up three runs.

Castellanos is coming off his worst start of the season as he allowed six runs and 10 hits in four innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday. It was only the second time he had given up more than three runs in 10 appearances this season.

“We weren’t attacking the zone or attacking the right spots,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “He grinded out the final two innings. He just didn’t get into a rhythm.”

Castellanos will face the Braves for the first time.

Lovullo was thrown out of Monday’s game in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes. Afterward he said he would continue to stick up for his pitchers if the strike zone appeared to be squeezed.

“I know the umpires are trying to get every call right, and it’s a hard job,” Lovullo said. “Sometimes they miss it and things get a little tense. At a certain point I felt like it was my job to protect my players, and every single day of my career here, I’m going to protect the players. I’ll never back down from that.”

Several Arizona batters have settled into a groove, including Ketel Marte, who went 2-for-3 Monday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Marte is hitting .383 (18-for-47) with five doubles and seven RBIs during the stretch.

The Braves are expected to play Ronald Acuna Jr. in the outfield for one game in the series. He primarily has been the designated hitter while dealing with a right-quad strain.

“I don’t know which one, and that’s going to be determined day-to-day,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said of when Acuna would play the field. “We’re going to do what they feel is best to keep him upright.”

The Braves added to the bullpen this week when they recalled right-hander Jesus Cruz from Triple-A Gwinnett. He joined the organization after being released by St. Louis in March.

Cruz made 11 minor-league appearances and had a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. He made his Braves debut on Monday and pitched a scoreless inning. The Braves, meanwhile, released reliever Tyler Thornburg.

–Field Level Media

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