It appears Atlanta has a date with St. Louis or Milwaukee, and no matter which team they match up with, this is undoubtedly their best chance to win a playoff series in recent memory. St. Louis has been consistently good with their pitching all season, and Jack Flaherty has been electric in his last 15 starts, posting an even 1.00 ERA. Even after losing MVP candidate Christian Yelich, Milwaukee is 9-1 over their last 10 and has won 7 in a row. Both of these teams will be tough draws, but it’s the postseason. There are no easy games. I think the Braves are one of the 3 best and most complete teams in the playoffs this season, so what do they have to do to get that elusive series win and World Series Trophy?
Young Pitchers Can’t Let the Moment Get Too Big
St. Louis has Ozuna, Goldschmidt, and DeJong. Milwaukee has been knocking the cover off the ball all season. Last year, Sean Newcomb won Atlanta’s only playoff game. Atlanta has been saving Mike Soroka’s arm all season, Max Fried has been restricted in some capacities. Dallas Keuchel joined the team two months into the season. Mike Foltynewicz has spent some time on the IL. These guys are fresh, the main question is, can these guys block out the noise and make big pitches when it counts. We know Dallas Keuchel can, Folty has been hot, but Soroka and Fried are going to have to step into the limelight and do what they do. Dominate.
Josh Donaldson has to bring the rain
Having an elite under the radar season outside of Atlanta, Josh Donaldson has been crushing all season. He’s been slumping over the past month, only hitting .219. However, he still has 8 HRs and 20 RBI. If he’s producing runs and playing the defense he plays, he’s a plus asset to this team. Josh needs to knock the dust off and get hot for this series. Maybe he’s resting up, he’s a career .275 hitter in the playoffs. Watch out.
The Bullpen has to be the bullpen we saw in the LAST HALF of August
Atlanta had the 2nd worst bullpen ERA from the trade deadline to August 16th. The trades for Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon looked like disasters. However, from August 17th – September 2nd, they were absolutely dominant. Atlanta went from a 7.16 ERA to a 2.16 ERA and naturally proceeded to win 13 of their 15 games. This was a big part of keeping Washington from taking over the NL East. Chris Martin has a 1.93 ERA over his last 14 innings. Shane Greene has a 1.84 ERA over his last 14.2. Mark Melancon has been the closer we’ve been missing since Kimbrel was traded. If the rest of these guys can hold suit and our stars can keep being their stars, this team will make some noise.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has to be Ronald Acuña Jr.
Don’t overthink this one. Cut the kid loose. We’ve seen what he can do. He only had 3 hits last postseason, but Braves fans will all remember the biggest moment of the postseason for us. Ronald needs to step up, and plain and simple; just be himself (and maybe hit another grand slam).
No Stupid Mistakes on Defense
This one is a bit of a given, but you can’t give either of these teams free runs. St. Louis has too good of a pitching staff to make them up and Milwaukee has too good of bats to give them extra outs. For the most part, the Braves have been one of the better defensive teams in the majors. Ender Inciarte coming back will help. Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers are going to have to control the run game (and in the case of Tyler Flowers, actually catch the ball) against both of these teams to keep Atlanta’s calm.