For the first time all postseason, the Braves bullpen imploded, blowing an opportunity to take a commanding lead over the Dodgers. To most teams, that kind of loss might feel more like a gut bunch. For the Braves, who blew a 2-0 lead in the NLCS to this exact team a year ago, it sure felt like a knockout blow. Hopefully, the players don’t feel that way. After all, they are still up 2-1 in a series and have two walk-offs of their own to hang their cap on, but it’s hard not to think about what happened in 2020 after last night. One things for sure, though, if the Braves are going to wrap up this series, they can’t afford any more of these meltdowns. So, is it time for the Braves to re-shuffle the back-end of their bullpen?
Following Charlie Morton‘s gutsy performance, A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek pitched very well in the sixth and seventh innings, holding the Dodgers scoreless and striking out four batters. However, the eighth is where the Braves found trouble with Luke Jackson on the mound. A couple of singles brought Cody Bellinger to the plate with one out. Jackson was able to get ahead of the former NL MVP, but on a two-strike pitch, Bellinger launched a high fastball into the bleachers to tie the game. Mookie Betts would later give the Dodgers a lead in the inning with a double, crushing the Braves hopes of a 3-0 series lead.
For Jackson, this was actually the second consecutive outing in which he’s looked shaky. In Game 2, Brian Snitker brought him in with two-men on and two outs to record the final out of the seventh inning before pitching the eighth. He proceeded by hitting a batter before giving up a go-ahead two-run single to Chris Taylor. Thankfully, the Braves were able to fight back in that one, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday night.
With that being said, there has to be some slack given to Jackson for last night’s performance. The two singles found some holes in the defense, and the ball that Bellinger hit for a homer was well over the zone, exactly where Jackson wanted it. Bellinger just made a helluva swing on a tough pitch to keep the Dodgers chances alive. Jackson even admitted after the game that if he had the chance to re-do the scenario, he would have thrown the exact same thing.
Luke Jackson on his pitch above the zone that Cody Bellinger hit out for the game-tying homer: pic.twitter.com/jgvKXz6z91
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) October 20, 2021
When you combine that response with how well Jackson’s pitched all season and the loyalty Brian Snitker shows to his guys, I expect Jackson to be out there tonight if the game tonight is close late. He’s still one of the best arms coming out of Atlanta’s bullpen, and Snitker isn’t one to waver after a couple of shaky outings.
Still, there might be a slight re-shuffling simply because how lights out two of the other Braves arms have been. Tyler Matzek is an absolute stud with ice in his veins. He’s been the Braves best reliever all season, especially in the postseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if Snitker allowed him to pitch more eighth innings, and if he can work quickly, Snitker might even let him go more than one inning. A.J. Minter is another arm that could potentially be used in high-leverage situations moving forward. The Dodgers are significantly worse against left-handed pitchers, and Minter’s been extremely effective against them in the last two postseasons.
Jackson won’t lose his job after just one loss. With a one-run lead going into the eighth, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he trotted onto the mound tonight. However, in the playoffs, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of seeing a pitcher implode twice. It could prove to be wise if Brian Snitker chose to re-shuffle things a bit at the back-end of the bullpen for the remainder of the series.
Thanks for reading about the Braves re-shuffling their bullpen. If you liked this article, check out Clint Manry’s recent piece on how clutch Austin Riley has been in the NLCS.
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