NLCS: Tyler Matzek makes sense as an opener for Braves

Matzek NLCS

After Kyle Wright dazzled in his first postseason start against the Marlins on Thursday, tossing six shutout innings, he’s earned an opportunity to start Game 3 of the NLCS. However, because the Braves have swept each of their first two playoff series, they haven’t needed a fourth starter.

That will change in a best of seven NLCS against arguably the best team in baseball and in the World Series if the Braves can make it past the Dodgers. Unfortunately, Atlanta doesn’t have a fourth starting pitcher that can be trusted this deep into the playoffs.

At the beginning of the Marlins series, our Jake Gordon mentioned that Bryse Wilson had earned an opportunity to start in the NLDS. I agreed with him… because we were talking about the NLDS. In no way does Wilson have any business starting a playoff game against the Dodgers unless the Braves are up 3-0 in the series, and neither does Huascar Ynoa.

Wilson had some success against the Marlins, and understandably so, their lineup is pretty terrible. Los Angeles features arguably the best offense in baseball. There’s little doubt in my mind that Wilson or Ynoa would get lit up if they faced them.

So what do the Braves do?

The answer is rather simple. We’ve seen plenty of teams implement the opener throughout the last several postseasons with plenty of success. In Game 4, a reliever should start for the Braves, and nobody makes more sense than Tyler Matzek.

We’ve written plenty about Matzek over the last several weeks. The 2011 first-round back has quite the bounce back story. After being out of the league for four seasons, he’s been the most used reliever in Atlanta’s bullpen and been absolutely filthy. Matzek’s overcome the yips, resulting in a 2.79 ERA, much better 1.92 FIP — suggesting he’s been subject to some poor luck — and a ridiculous 13.3 K/9.

The spotlight hasn’t proved to be too big for him in the postseason, either. In Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, Brian Snitker turned to him with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th inning. Matzek delivered by striking out Mike Moustakas. Matzek then went back out for the 12th and got into some trouble, as the Reds began the inning with back-to-back singles. However, he responded by striking out the next three batters to get out of the jam.

Snitker called on Matzek twice during the NLDS. The lefty was as sharp as ever, tossing two perfect innings with four strikeouts. He now has eight punchouts in just 3.1 innings so far this postseason.

At this point, you could argue Matzek is the most reliable arm on the entire Braves pitching staff. His stuff looks that sharp. He is as confident as ever and the perfect guy to start a potential Game 4.

The Braves won’t ask more of Matzek than he has done all season. He’s proven to be good for a couple innings or more. Brian Snitker asked Matzek to pitch more than one inning 12 times over this 60-game campaign, and he’s gone at least two innings six times. His longest outing of the year is 2.1 innings.

Some of this will also have to do with how the series shakes out. If the Braves need him for an inning or two in Game 3, this won’t be an option. If they somehow find themselves up 3-0, using him in this role may not be necessary. However, assuming the NLCS is competitive, Game 4 could swing the series one way or the other. In that situation, the Braves should be using an opener. Tyler Matzek makes the most sense out of anyone in the bullpen.

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