The Atlanta Braves could beat their ticket to the World Series tonight. Let it sink in.
This dynamic team has done it on the back of their elite offense and bullpen and gutsy performances at a very young rotation. After the 26-year-old grizzled veteran who looks like he does not need to shave, Max Fried, the Braves have started 3 straight rookies against a brutal Dodgers lineup and won 2 out of 3 of those games.
However, with Mike Soroka out and the Braves not acquiring rotational assistance by the trade deadline, Braves fans knew that games 4 and 5 would require some patchwork and great confidence in the bullpen.
Enter Bryse Wilson. The 22-year-old rookie surpassed future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw and dominated a very hot Los Angeles offense. Following national analysts ̵
Serious question: Are the Braves done? I think they might be.
– Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) October 14, 2020
Game 5, however, presents Brian Snitker with a challenge. He is already on record with saying that Max Fried will not start with a short rest in Game 5. Snitker could certainly change his mind after winning Game 4. However, the Dodgers now had to beat both Fried and Ian Anderson to avoid elimination, so why not have these two best.
Snitker will have some options for game 5. When working on the premise that Fried will start a potential game 6 and Anderson in game 7 (and excludes Wilson), there are only 3 other pitches on the active list that have started games for the Braves this season: Kyle Wright, Josh Tomlin and Huascar Ynoa.
Tomlin has been a phenomenal mentor to the Braves’ young staff, but his performance on the pitch has left plenty of room for improvement. He allowed the Dodgers to make things interesting in Game 2 by giving up 3 runs on 3 hits at 0.2 innings. Tomlin’s 87 mph knife was destroyed by Dodgers hitters as they hit a single, double and homerun out of it in the ninth inning of Game 2. Tomlin may be needed at some point in Game 5, but it is hoped that there are better opportunities to start.
Ynoa threw brilliantly in Game 3 and delivered 4 pointless innings as the Braves desperately needed someone to eat innings. While it’s hard to say that every pitcher really isn’t available in a game that could beat a World Series ticket, Ynoa threw 92 spots on Wednesday. That’s 18 more places than Wilson threw in his 6-inning start last night. It’s not impossible that Ynoa would get into game 5, but he’s probably your last resort. Even if he throws, it will probably be no more than an inning.
This may be hard to swallow, but the Braves should start Wright in Game 5, in my opinion. Yes, he was shaken to the tune of 7 earned runs in just 0.2 innings in Game 3, but I like silver linings. Wright threw only 28 spots. And if the Braves want to win a World Series, they need Wright.
Wright certainly seemed ragged in the first inning of Game 3, but the effect had apparently disappeared by the end of the game as he really seemed eager to get back on the pile.
“You can either feel sorry for yourself or find a way to jump back. I take everything I can from one and I learn and get better for the next outing.”
– @Braves starter Kyle Wright pic.twitter.com/25xZcR9kXr
– FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) October 15, 2020
I’d rather have Wright be able to build some confidence in Game 5 than have this excursion linger in the World Series. He would have a strong bullpen behind him if he got into trouble and rested Fried and Anderson in the ensuing games to win. And if Wright has a positive outing to get the NLCS, he will have ample confidence on his way into the World Series.
Here’s how much rest each reliever has had in Game 5:
Relievers with 2 days rest: O’Day, Minter, Tomlin, Melancon
Relievers with 1 day rest: Dayton, Ynoa, Webb
Reliever who broke up last night: Smith, Martin, Matzek, Greene
Relievers who have thrown the last 2 consecutive games: Greene
As mentioned, Ynoa threw 92 lanes on Wednesday and was to be a last resort for Snitker. Greene has thrown back-to-back games, but he had 5 off-days before that. If the Braves have a chance to finish the series tonight, think Greene will be available.
Matzek has been phenomenal for the Braves, hitting 6.1 shutout innings and totaling 11 strikes this offseason. He can deliver more innings after doing so in 12 of his 21 regular season outings this year. Starting Matzek and letting the Braves’ deep bullpen, which is surprisingly well rested, is a viable option for the Braves in Game 5.
One downside to a bullpen game is that it can limit the ease and efficiency of some relievers later in the series if they are unable to win in Game 5. But the shortened season this year may make it less worrying.
Regardless of Snitker’s decision, the Braves are well positioned to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1999.