Braves have the right man on the mound for elimination game

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There is not much good to say about what transpired last night. The Braves were walloped by the Phillies with the ace of their staff on the mound. Spencer Strider, who hadn’t pitched in nearly a month, clearly wasn’t himself. It started out well, as he sat the first six Phillies down in a row, but fatigue quickly caught up to him, and Philadelphia exploded in the third inning for six runs — a deficit the Braves were never able to challenge.

The loss puts Atlanta in a position they have not been in for almost two years, as they face elimination for the first time since the 2020 NLCS when they fell to the Dodgers. However, they have the right man on the mound to keep their hopes alive.

Charlie Morton hasn’t had his best season, posting a 4.34 ERA, which is his highest mark since the 2015 season when he was with the Pirates. But Morton was better from the middle of July on, and he’s been a wizard at helping his teams stave off elimination.

Since 2017, Morton has started five elimination games, and his teams are 5-0 in those games. He’s allowed just two earned runs over 24.2 innings pitched while striking out 28. I know Morton hasn’t quite been what Braves fans expected this season after a stellar 2021, but the veteran might be their best starting pitching option with everything on the line.

The Phillies, on the other hand, will try to piece Game 4 together, beginning with Noah Syndergaard, who they acquired via trade earlier in the season. He’s been pretty solid this year, boasting a 3.94 ERA, but he’s no longer the high strikeout guy he was early in his career. Syndergaard is averaging just 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings since joining the Phillies, so this Braves lineup that has struggled so far in this series will have the opportunity to get back on track.

I imagine the Phillies will have a very short leash on Syndergaard and won’t hesitate to hand the ball off to Kyle Gibson or someone else in their bullpen. The key to this game, like most postseason contests, will be scoring first. If they Braves can jump on the Phillies early and take the crowd out of the game, they should be able to force this series back to Atlanta. But if they don’t, it may be an early exit for the defending World Series champions.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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