The excitement of the Braves last pair of wins over the Dodgers shouldn’t cause us to overlook one very concerning development: Atlanta can’t stop the Dodgers run game.
Game 1 wasn’t too bad. Both the Braves and Dodgers tallied two stolen bases apiece, with each side featuring a swipe that literally everyone at Truist Park saw coming (one by Trea Turner… and one by Ozzie Albies late in the game to set up Austin Riley‘s walk-off RBI).
But whoo boy… Game 2 was a different story. In Sunday’s thrilling 5-4 win, LA stole a whopping four bases, with Mookie Betts accounting for two of those on his own. We wondered how the Dodgers have easily paced the Braves in the RISP department so far (by a tally of 18-8). Well, that has a lot to do with stolen bases. Basically anytime they want to, the LA base runners are taking second, which, in a postseason series, really puts the opposing team at a disadvantage.
However, this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. If you’re the Dodgers, you almost have to at least try. Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud has never been much of a threat to throw out would-be base stealers, which is clearly illustrated by his combined 13.5% caught-stealing rate since 2020 (compared to a league average rate of 24.5% in that span).
So what are the Braves to do?
Really, Max Fried is the only Atlanta starter that wields an above-average move to first as he recorded a career-high six pick-offs during the 2021 regular season. At an average of four pick-offs per year from Fried, he’s by far better than either Charlie Morton or Ian Anderson, who’ve each averaged fewer than one per season during their respective careers. As far as the bullpen, it’s actually Drew Smyly that appears to be the most skilled at containing base runners. He may not be postseason-starter material, but he picked off five runners this season. A.J. Minter leads the regular relief core with two pick-offs, so he’s probably not keeping Betts or Turner from swiping second.
Honestly, there may not be much the Braves can do to prevent such thievery. The LA lineup is filled with athletes, featuring at least three players that are a pretty good bet to successfully steal nearly every time they try (in Betts, Turner and Gavin Lux). But no one’s claiming Atlanta should suddenly stop LA from stealing. They just need to perhaps be more aware. Maybe try a few pitch-outs (is that even a thing anymore?).
One thing’s for sure, though, it’s probably unlikely the Braves continue coming out on top while allowing so many Dodgers to run free. It’s been a whacky series so far, and Atlanta just keeps finding more ways to win, but eventually, containing LA’s running game will need to become much more of a priority.
Thanks for reading about how the Braves must stop the Dodgers run game, if you liked this article, make sure to check out another article from Clint about how the trade deadline acquisitions have come up huge in the postseason.