With Charlie Morton sidelined for the NLDS due to a right finger sprain, Bryce Elder will make the start in Game 3, likely with a short leash. Don’t be surprised to see AJ Smith-Shawver within the first few innings, as the Braves attempt to piece together a win in unconventional fashion.
However, entering the postseason, the bullpen arguably posed the greatest concern. But in a testament to their resilience, they’ve risen to the occasion in the first two games.
In Game 1, after Spencer Strider‘s stellar seven innings, the bullpen’s role was minimal. Despite conceding a run in the eighth – stemming from a debatable catcher’s interference – it’s tough to pin the blame on A.J. Minter. He still set the stage for a potential comeback.
Game 2 showcased the bullpen’s mettle. With Max Fried only lasting four innings and giving up three runs, the Braves were on the ropes, especially with Zack Wheeler countering for the opposition. Falling much further behind wasn’t an option.
Though the Braves gave up a run in the fifth with Kirby Yates pitching – an unearned one, following Travis d’Arnaud’s errant throw – the bullpen’s response was immaculate. Joe Jimenez, Pierce Johnson, A.J. Minter, and Raisel Iglesias collectively produced four scoreless innings. This effort allowed the Braves’ bats to strike back, which they did by mashing two timely home runs in the final three innings.
As the series transitions back to Philadelphia at 1-1, the scales seem tipped in Atlanta’s favor. Their bats are finding a rhythm, and even with Game 3’s pitching potentially being a patchwork affair, you have to like the Braves’ chances if their bullpen can replicate their form from the first two games.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire