Muller was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make the start in the series finale after Atlanta optioned Bryce Elder back to Gwinnett following his start the night before. It might have been a weekend full of homecomings for the Braves’ pitchers — Elder is from Decatur and Muller is from Dallas — but it didn’t pan out as they had hoped.
“I’m upset, obviously, because it’s my home state and I wanted to do better than that,” Muller said. “But given what happened today, there’s definitely some positives.”
Muller gave up seven runs on four hits and six walks in his 2022 debut. It wasn’t an ideal start and six walks isn’t something he said he’s proud of, but the positives he pulled from the game include how he moved the ball and how visible his growth was from his last stint in the Majors.
“If you look at the trend of the way I’m headed, the way I’m throwing the ball, it’s close,” Muller said. “We’re pretty close to figuring it out.”
Last season, Muller made nine appearances (eight starts) for Atlanta, compiling a 2-4 record with a 4.17 ERA.
“Up until [the third inning], I thought there were some pretty close pitches,” Muller added. “I felt like I was around the zone for the most part, I just wasn’t in it. I’ll take that compared to last year, where I struggled because I wasn’t even close. … I’d say that’s progress in the right direction.”
In that decisive inning, a single, two walks and a sacrifice bunt had Atlanta trailing 4-2, with two outs and the bases loaded for Rangers outfielder Adolis García. It was the second time that Texas had managed to load the bases against Muller.
The first time came in the second inning, when he walked two batters and gave up a single. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz made a mound visit and calmed him down before getting ejected on his way to the dugout after an exchange with home-plate umpire Cory Blaser. Muller eventually made it out of the inning.
The second time around, however, Muller was pulled and García followed with a bases-clearing triple off reliever Jesse Chavez.
“Again, these are young guys with stuff and [Muller’s] come a long way,” manager Brian Snitker said, echoing much of what he had said on Saturday following Elder’s outing.
First road appearance
Ronald Acuña Jr. is easing back into the game after being activated off the IL, having fully recuperated from the right ACL tear he suffered in July of 2021.
Acuña made his return to the lineup on April 28 against the Cub, when he started in right field and went 1-for-5 in Atlanta’s win. Snitker said the plan is to rest Acuña on travel days, which is why he sat on Friday and served as the DH on Saturday and Sunday.
Monday is a travel day for Atlanta, and the Braves are scheduled to face the Mets at Citi Field, but Snitker said that Acuña might be in the lineup again.
“He needs at-bats [and] he needs to get his timing [down],” Snitker said. “I’m confident the more at-bats we give him, the better he’s going to be.”
In his first road appearances of the season, Acuña went 1-for-8 with four strikeouts and a walk. His lone hit was a check-swing RBI single over the head of Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe on Saturday.