After a big win in Game 2, the Atlanta Braves will return to Truist Park with home field advantage in hand. Atlanta put Friday’s disappointing 2-1 Game 1 loss behind them and scored a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday thanks to some timely hitting and a big performance on the mound by Max Fried.
“I said that this afternoon, the resiliency these guys show, they’ll bounce back on the toughest loss and play a really, really good game,” Brian Snitker said following Saturday’s win. “They’ve done that for years, since I’ve been here.”
“They can turn the page better than I can, believe me,” Snitker added. “I always kind of preached that the only thing you can control is today. They all come to the field, they prepare for today’s game and don’t dwell on anything. It’s a great trait to have for a group of players.”
The Braves had opportunities in Game 1 but were unable to take advantage. Fried helped put that loss behind them with another gritty performance that has become the norm for him in the second half of the 2021 season. Fried tossed six scoreless innings and struck out nine while allowing just three hits.
“I think last year’s postseason experience probably was great for him today, approaching it,” Snitker said of Fried’s outing. “You can just see Max, as the game wears on he just feeds into it. He’s, like you say, really good. He’s been really good for a long time now.”
“It was fun to watch. He’s fun to watch when he’s got it going, because he’s got the arsenal, the assortment. Spins the ball so well. It was a great outing.”
Fried didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until Willy Adames doubled with two outs in the sixth inning. He didn’t walk a single batter and finished the game having thrown just 81 pitches.
Rather than send him back out for the seventh as he did in Game 1 with Charlie Morton, Snitker elected to turn the game over to his bullpen.
“The biggest thing about that, like Charlie last night after six and Max after six, he bled it out there in the sixth,” Snitker said of the decision to pull Fried. “He went through the meat of their lineup and expended what I felt was a lot of energy right there, in a real big moment in playoff baseball. Charlie’s been through this 100 times. Max is just cutting his teeth with all this.”
Joc Pederson pinch-hit for Fried in the seventh and singled but was left stranded as Jorge Soler flew out to end the inning.
Snitker turned to Luke Jackson and the bullpen to try and get the final nine outs. There were some stress filled moments but they were able to get the job done. Jackson struck out the first two hitters he faced but then allowed a single to Julio Urias. A walk to Lorenzo Cain ended Jackson’s evening and Tyler Matzek struck out pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor to strand the runners.
Matzek walked Jace Peterson to begin the eighth and then allowed a single to Kolten Wong to put runners at first and second with no one out. The Braves had Huascar Ynoa and Will Smith both warming in the bullpen at this point but Snitker elected to stick with Matzek. The move paid off as Matzek struck out Adames, got Eduardo Escobar to fly out and then struck out Avisail Garcia to end the inning.
“That was huge. This guy’s pitched so many big innings for us,” Snitker said of Matzek. “He’s not a matchup guy either. He’s got really good numbers against right-handed hitters. He’s pitched some really big innings for us over the last couple of years.”
There was more drama in the ninth as Will Smith walked Yelich and then allowed a broken bat single to Urias. However, Cain flew out to right before Luke Maile grounded sharply to Austin Riley at third who started the 5-4-3 double play to end the game.
With the split in hand, the Braves will hand the ball to Ian Anderson in Game 3 with a chance to take a lead in the series. As frustrating as the Game 1 loss was, this is the exact position that the team hoped to be in after facing Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff in the first two games.
“You come on the road in the playoffs, you want to split,” Snitker said. “Obviously you’d love to take two, but if you split, that’s a good thing. Now we’ll go home, try to win a game on Monday.”