Who gets the ball for the Braves in Game 3?

MLB: MAY 19 Mariners at Braves

The Braves have life again in the NLDS following their unforgettable comeback victory in Game 2 at Truist Park. However, they are heading to Philadelphia for the next two, a place that wasn’t kind to them a year ago in the postseason.

We know who will get the ball for the Braves in Game 4. It will be Spencer Strider after he pitched marvelously in Game 1, and it will likely be Ranger Suarez again for the Phillies. That’s a clear pitching advantage for the Braves, one they weren’t able to take advantage of last Saturday, as they were shutout at Truist Park for the first time all season.

But in Game 3, the Phillies will have the pitching advantage, sending the seasoned veteran Aaron Nola to the mound. The former LSU Tiger hasn’t had a season up to his standards, but he was brilliant in the Wild Card Series against the Marlins and has had a lot of success against the Braves throughout his career. Atlanta’s starter for Game 3 remains a mystery, but there seem to be two likely options.

The Braves have had a plethora of off days since the end of the regular season, so everyone in the bullpen should be fresh and ready to go on Wednesday if needed. That does make a bullpen game an option, but the Braves probably don’t want to go in that direction, given they could potentially be facing an elimination game on Thursday.

In all likelihood, the Braves will attempt to try and follow a similar path to victory as the Phillies did in Game 1. Hand the ball to Bryce Elder or AJ Smith-Shawver and hope one can go 3-4 innings before going to the bullpen. Regardless of who they choose, he will have a very short leash, with the other standing by at a moment’s notice.

If the Braves are going to go with Elder at any point in Game 3, one would imagine it would be as a starter. He has no experience out of the bullpen, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring him in as a reliever now. Meanwhile, AJ Smith-Shawver has been used in both roles, so pitching him after Elder seems like the most likely scenario.

However, this is the postseason, and there are no second chances. The Phillies have never seen Smith-Shawver before, and the Braves might feel he could give them 3-4 shutout innings before they really get a look at his stuff. They could then hand it off to the bullpen in hopes of stealing Game 3. Either way, deciding who will start tomorrow is just one of the many gut-wrenching decisions Brian Snitker will have to make over the next several days, and whether he pulls the right strings could be the difference in the Braves advancing or another early postseason exit.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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