The date was October 19th, 1999.
The number 1 movie in America was “The Best Man”.
The top songs in America were “Something Like That” by Tim McGraw and “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey.
Though it has now been nearly 21 years since that wonderful moment, your Atlanta Braves are on the verge of making their first World Series appearance this century. They have created the opportunity through incredible pitching and timely hitting, while mixing in plenty of power and pizzazz along the way. Since mid-August, it has seemed there is something special about this team, and they have continued to confirm it more and more since the calendar turned to October.
However, one more win remains for all of this to become a reality. And as talented as the Dodgers are, that is far from a guarantee.
When the best of the Braves have faced the best of the Dodgers, the Braves have gotten the better results multiple times. Outside of Kyle Wright, Josh Tomlin, and Grant Dayton, the Braves starters and bullpen have kept the Dodgers offense quiet. Against a pair that many considered to be among the best duo of starters in this year’s playoffs, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, the Braves offense has done enough to back their starter’s efforts. It has been a complete team effort against the best team in the majors that has allowed the Braves to earn their 3-1 lead in the series, and that must continue tonight and through the weekend (if necessary) to clinch.
With their season on the line, the Dodgers will turn to young right-hander Dustin May to start Game 5. Though May has been used mainly in relief this postseason, he certainly has dominant stuff that will make him a difficult matchup for Atlanta. May (2.57 ERA/ 4.62 FIP/ 3.98 xFIP) was 3-1 over 56 innings during the regular season and has not allowed a run in 4 2⁄3 innings in the postseason. In Game 1, he gave up a hit and walk over 1 2⁄3 innings against the Braves. Though the movement on May’s pitches has allowed him to be featured frequently on Pitching Ninja’s twitter feed, the Braves have plenty of experience against quality talent over the past few weeks. If the Braves can manage to show some discipline against May’s pitches (far easier said than done) and force him to throw hittable strikes, they can have some success.
If they need any pointers, I am sure Rafael Ortega can be consulted.
At this moment, TBD is slated to get the start for Atlanta, a name many Atlanta fans have become accustomed to seeing this season. While the name that begins the game is important, how other names are used throughout the game is the most significant development for Atlanta tonight. Manager Brian Snitker has been very good with his bullpen management in the playoffs, consistently placing his arms in positions where they can be effective.
As Anthony Traurig pointed out, perhaps the most sensible option tonight is to start Tyler Matzek in a pure bullpen effort. Theoretically, featuring names such as Matzek, Chris Martin, Will Smith, and Mark Melancon against the top of the Dodgers order whenever it is due up would be ideal. However, while the Braves should be aggressive, they must also be cautious not to burn their bullpen before the weekend if more games occur.
On the other hand, starting Wright or Tomlin and risking falling behind early is not attractive either. Perhaps the best option is a compromise of the ideas listed above. Start the game with a quality reliever to have a good chance of limiting the Dodgers to begin the game, managing Wright or Tomlin to get through a few innings after that, then playing the odds that the Braves bats and bullpen will get the best of the Dodgers bats and bullpen again as they have done in three of the four games this series.
However the Braves decide to approach the game with their pitching, the pressure is on the Dodgers, as the Braves have allowed themselves the luxury of trusting what has worked so far. As they have done numerous times under Snitker, this Braves core continues to bounce back immediately after it has experienced struggles. And this time, they did it against arguably the best pitcher of this generation and the best team in baseball. The time has finally arrived where if the Braves simply play to their potential, they can be considered the best team in baseball.
If they play like that again tonight, there is a good chance the next time they play, it will be in the World Series.
Game Date/Time: Friday, October 16, 9:08 p.m. ET
Location: Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network