There is no quit in this team. That is a familiar trope that we have heard throughout the last few playoff runs for the Atlanta Braves. It is playing out again in the NLCS where the Braves have scored walk-off wins in back-to-back games to take a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Braves immediately found themselves in a hole as Mookie Betts singled to lead off the game and then came around to score on a two-run shot by Corey Seager. Ian Anderson needed 28 pitches to escape the first inning and struggled to command his pitches. He retired the side in order in the second but had to scramble to strand two more runners in the third. Already trailing and with Max Scherzer on the mound, Brian Snitker didn’t wait around to see if Anderson could find it and went to his bullpen early.
Snitker said after the game that Anderson exiting early wasn’t something that they had necessarily prepared for.
“We talked about the fifth or sixth inning type thing because figuring Ian would get there,” Snitker said. “It just wasn’t his day. It just wasn’t coming out good. The location wasn’t good and it happens. That’s what I told him. You know what, this happens. It didn’t matter that it’s postseason. It’s a baseball game and you’ve been pitching a long time and over the course of the year, and things like that happen.”
Anderson allowed three hits, three walks and two runs over three innings. He struck out two while throwing 55 pitches. Just 30 of which landed in the strike zone.
“He’ll be fine coming into the next one, but we just had to start audibling and looking, kind of fast forwarding matchup-type scenarios that we had talked about prior to the game,” Snitker added. “It just, kind of everything got pushed up about three innings, quite honestly. And the guys did a great job of handing the ball off to each other.”
The Braves tied the game up in the fourth on a two-run blast by Joc Pederson off of Scherzer. Pederson just missed a homer in his first at-bat, pulling it foul. He didn’t miss his second opportunity.
“Just looking for a pitch over the plate,” Pederson said of his homer. “They have really good pitching and don’t make too many mistakes, so just trying to capitalize on the opportunities that are presented.”
Scherzer allowed a single to Dansby Swanson and then struck out pinch-hitter Orlando Arcia to begin the fifth. He would then exit after throwing just 79 pitches. Scherzer came in to close out Game 5 of the NLDS and told reporters after the game that he was still feeling the effects.
“I would just say my arm was dead. I could tell when I was warming up that it was still tired and I’ve been in this situation before,” Scherzer said of his early exit. “You don’t want to always go out there and pitch full strength. Usually in those situations kind of once you get past pitch 45 sometimes it kind of loosens up and you’re able to get deeper into a game. But after that 3rd inning it didn’t loosen up. It was still more tightening up. So I could tell that my pitch count was going to be limited. I wasn’t going to be able to get truly deep into a game and I wasn’t going to be able to get to that 95, 100 pitch count. I knew it was going to be sooner than that.”
Atlanta’s bullpen was pressed into service early and did the job before running into trouble in the seventh. A lead off walk to Betts got things started for the Dodgers and a double by Chris Taylor that got past Guillermo Heredia in center later in the inning put them back in front 4-2.
The bullpen walked the tightrope most of the night. Atlanta pitchers issued nine walks in the game. Anderson allowed three hits and the bullpen allowed just one over the final six innings.
“Obviously we did a great job of limiting damage against a really good club and that’s not a really good recipe for success against a team like this when you’re letting that many guys get on base because these guys are so dangerous,” Snitker said.
“Credit to the guys. They just kept pitching, especially out of the bullpen. We used a lot of guys tonight. Didn’t intend it to be like that, but you just kind of, probably the last thing going into it that we planned for, but you have to adjust on the fly and the guys stepped up, especially out of the bullpen, did a great job.”
With the top of the Braves lineup due up, Dave Roberts elected to go with Julio Urias in the eighth. That decision would backfire as Atlanta rallied for two runs to tie the game on run scoring hits by Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Roberts said after the game that Urias didn’t throw a side session and was available for that situation if needed.
“We talked about it before the series and he was available last night if it came to the situation. It didn’t,” Roberts said. “He hadn’t thrown a bullpen and he was the best option at that point in time. He was prepared for it. It was a perfect spot for him, and getting him through that 8th to go to Kenley to finish the game.”
Roberts added that Urias’ appearance wouldn’t have an impact on his status as the starter for Game 4.
The Braves rallied again in the ninth with Eddie Rosario landing the big blow with a walk-off single off of Kenley Jansen that brought home Swanson with the winning run.
“I feel great today and when I feel great I go aggressive all the time,” Rosario said of the game winner. “I know that I faced him yesterday. He got me out. But I don’t want to try too much today. Yesterday I tried to hit a homer and today I’m going to try to hit a base hit.”
The series will now shift to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5. Atlanta finds themselves in a familiar position up 2-0 in the series, but are hoping for a better end result this time around.
“We were up on them 2-0 last year so it’s like one of those things where you can’t stop now, you got to continue to apply the pressure and come out every day and get after it,” Riley said. “So I’m looking forward to the series or the next three games.”