The Braves starter for Game 3 remains a mystery, and we may not know until a few hours before game time tomorrow. The most logical options are Bryce Elder and AJ Smith-Shawver if they are to go the traditional route, but there’s also the non-traditional route to consider.
Given the strength of the Phillies lineup lies at the top, with their two best power threats being left-handed bats, it might make some sense to place an emphasis on the first inning and use a left-handed opener. A.J. Minter has had success in the role in the past, and even tossed three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts to start Game 5 of the 2020 NLCS against the Dodgers.
That’s a nice idea; however, the Braves likely aren’t going to want to use Minter for that long in Game 3, given they will want him available for Game 4. So, the question becomes would they rather use him in the first inning to establish some momentum or potentially later in the game in more of a high-leverage situation? I think they will want to save him for later, which makes veteran Brad Hand an intriguing possibility.
Hand is the only other southpaw in Atlanta’s bullpen. He hasn’t had the best season but did play a massive role in helping the Braves clinch the division up in Philadelphia a month ago, which included a 10th-inning save. Hand also had some big moments for the Phillies last year during their run to the World Series.
The first inning has been so critical for the Braves all season. If they can jump out ahead of the Phillies on the road, it will go a long way in quieting what will be a raucous environment and building off their momentum from a thrilling Game 2 victory.
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