Yesterday, I made what amounts to a just-for-fun post recounting the result of a single trial run of a simulation that pits the Braves against the Brewers in a five-game series, using results from the 2021 season tweaked to draw from the type of competition these two teams pose to one another. In that single trial run, the Braves won in five games; the reality, though, is that I wanted to lead with a post where the Braves won the series, but it took me a few single runs to actually get that result.
This time, we’re doing something more somber: a trial run where the Braves lose. Again, I want to reiterate that this has no purpose other than marginal entertainment value. I’m guessing whatever we get is much crazier than this.
Game 1: Charlie Morton vs. Corbin Burnes
Talk about a bizarre Game 1 for this series. I don’t know why the specific games I keep pulling end up being the ones where Burnes struggles against the Braves, but that’s what keeps happening.
The Braves start this game with three straight singles off Burnes. Well, three straight “singles,” as Freddie Freeman reaches on a pop into no-man’s land, and Ozzie Albies hits a comebacker off Burnes that gets thrown away and leads to two runs. Burnes appears shake but stays in and issues an uncharacteristic walk to Riley; a double play off Duvall’s bat scores a third run. As bizarre as that is, Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson hit back-to-back triples off Burnes to start the second, both are perfectly placed oddball bounces that torment poor Avi Garcia in right field. Burnes strikes out the side afterwards, and the Braves don’t get any more runs off of him or the bullpen, though they keep trying — they get two on in the fourth and don’t score, loaded the bases with none out in the fifth (chasing Burnes) but then strike out three times in a row, and get two on the sixth as well with no more runs.
On the pitching end, Charlie Morton gets the start, retires the first six batters he faces, and then with one out in the second, pulls something trying to field a bunt from Burnes and has to leave the game and the remainder of the series. The Braves do have a 4-0 lead at this point, but they empty most of the bullpen, using six relievers to finish the game. It works perfectly, though, as the relievers all face the minimum, and the Braves cruise to a win. Will Smith pitches the ninth and retires the side in order.
Game 2: Max Fried vs. Brandon Woodruff
It’s not a stretch to say that the Braves are relying on Morton and Fried to throw a bunch of good innings. So of course, this trial run features both of those guys leaving early. There was no magic bullpen to save the day here, though.
Long story short, Brandon Woodruff comes out and dominates the Braves. Woodruff faces the minimum through four innings (Jorge Soler starts the game with a walk but gets thrown out trying to take second on a ball that didn’t get far enough away from the catcher.) By the time the Braves get anything going, with a walk and a Freddie Freeman infield single in the sixth, they’re down big (see below), and Ozzie Albies flies out to end the threat anyway. Brad Boxberger and Josh Hader finish the Braves off with none of them crossing the plate.
As for Fried and the bullpen that handled Game 1 so well... everything crumbles. Fried strikes out the side in the first, but the inning starts with two singles and a passed ball and therefore the first Milwaukee run. There are two walks, two wild pitches, and a passed ball in Fried’s second, but no runs score as he strikes out Kolten Wong with runners on second and third. In the third, Fried bobbles a comebacker that could’ve started a double play; a single makes it 2-0 Brewers. The fourth is a similar disaster, as a leadoff infield single, a hit-by-pitch, a passed ball, and a two-run single by Yelich chased Fried, at 90+ pitches. In comes Jacob Webb, and Garcia clubs a two-run homer.
At that point, having used most of the relief corps in the prior game, the Braves basically toss batting practice. They end up losing 11-0. People complain a ton when Tyler Matzek randomly comes into the game, but the Braves have few options, and hope the rest day can at least give their relievers a breather.
Game 3: Freddy Peralta vs. Ian Anderson
The Braves get to Peralta first, as Duvall and d’Arnaud single in the second and score on Dansby Swanson’s grounder double down the left-field line. The Brewers pull him after two times through and give the ball to a procession of relievers that stifle Atlanta, but for an Eddie Rosario homer off Boxberger in the eighth.
Fortunately, this mostly works out, as Ian Anderson dances his way through the Milwaukee lineup and gives the bullpen a breather. Despite four walks in six innings, Anderson yields little else, and things are fine until the seventh, even when he faces the order for a third time in the sixth (Willy Adames walks, Yelich hits into a double play). The Braves push Anderson into the seventh anyway, and he doesn’t record an out — Garcia singles, Omar Narvaez doubles to put the tying runs in scoring position, and that’s that for Anderson. In comes Luke Jackson, and he somehow survives — strikeout, walk to loaded the bases, sac fly (2-1 Braves), fly to center to end the inning. Matzek and Smith finish the game off; Smith allows a one-out single in the ninth to Narvaez, but slams the door afterwards. The Braves can clinch with a win at home, but...
Game 4: Corbin Burnes vs. Huascar Ynoa
The Brewers throw Burnes on short rest, not wanting to get eliminated. The Braves ended up using Drew Smyly and Jesse Chavez to cover innings in Games 1 and 2, so Ynoa is the default choice. The whole Burnes on short rest thing works out fine.
Burnes doesn’t allow a hit until the sixth, and at that point the game is well out of reach. Ynoa gives up a leadoff homer to Wong and another to Narvaez in the second. Burnes also drives in a run with an RBI groundout. Ynoa falls apart in the fourth facing the order a third time, but he gets left in, and it’s grand slam time for Garcia — not that it matters, since the Braves are still being no-hit by this point. The Braves do score three runs in the seventh, including a pinch-hit two-run homer by Guillermo Heredia... but they’re down 8-4 at that point, and that’s the final score for the game. Back to Milwaukee for a fateful fifth game.
Game 5: Brandon Woodruff vs. Max Fried
Again, this is anticlimactic. We already pulled the winning trial earlier. This is the losing trial. And the game is anticlimactic too. Basically, the Woodruff-Fried rematch goes more or less the same way... sort of.
The Braves seem like they might threaten Woodruff this time, as Albies and Riley single with two outs in the first, but Duvall’s smash to third is caught. Unfortunately, that’s it, as despite facing him for a second time in the series, Woodruff just carves them up. The third time through the order isn’t a salve, as nothing is — Woodruff retires 12 straight after a leadoff single in the fourth.
Fried isn’t perfect, but perfectly fine for a while, until a two-run homer by Luis Urias in the fourth puts the Braves in a hole. Fried retires five in a row after that, but gives up four straight hits to start the sixth, and the Braves are suddenly down 4-0. Teeth are gnashed as Chris Martin is the guy that relieves Fried and gives up two more. Urias adds a three-run homer in the next frame, and the Braves are toast. They mount a feeble ninth-inning rally, forcing the Brewers to bring up Hader to wrap it up, but the final score is 11-3.
So, there you have it. Two random trial sets. One series win, one series loss. Both went to five games, both featured a bunch of blowouts, and the Morton-Fried tandem didn’t help things much.
Anyway, the real series is going to be much more interesting, so go watch that. And burn some sage or whatever to ward off whatever happened to Max Fried in every start in these trials, because man, what’s up with that?