The Atlanta Braves added another shutout victory Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. While the win was a case of starting pitcher Sean Newcomb and the bullpen silencing the Rays’ offense, it also demonstrated how much the Braves’ pitching as a whole has improved since last year.
As Ben Ingram of the Braves Radio Network tweeted, Tuesday’s victory was Atlanta’s fifth shutout through 34 games. To put that number in perspective, the Braves had six shutouts in 162 games in the 2017 season.
The Braves as a team have a 3.74 ERA, putting them 10th in Major League Baseball. Last season, the Braves ended 25th with a 4.67 ERA in a 73-win campaign.
While that earned run number has been accumulated over more than a month of baseball, it’s also worth noting Atlanta has posted three of its five shutouts in the past week.
One of the important pieces in Atlanta’s resurgence on the mound is Newcomb, who boasts a 3-1 record with a 2.88 ERA. The rookie surrendered only two hits in six innings of work Tuesday, which was his first start since giving up only two hits in seven innings against the Mets on May 2.
According to The AJC’s David O’Brien, those back-to-back starts made Newcomb the first Brave to allow no more than two hits in consecutive scoreless starts of at least six innings since Greg Maddux in 1999. As Newcomb told O’Brien, his changeup has played an important role in his recent success.
“The changeup being good has been a big help,” Newcomb said. “It’s starting to be something to keep guys off the fastball. Then that makes the fastball play up, so it’s been good.”