The Atlanta Braves will officially begin their postseason quest Friday evening when they open up the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Braves overcame a lot of adversity to put themselves in this position. They will be making their fourth straight appearance in the postseason and will be hoping that past experiences will help them this time around.
“I think it’s just we have the expectation to win now,” Freddie Freeman said while speaking to the media Thursday. “2018, I think we just surprised everyone. We were just happy to be there again after going through a rebuild. ‘19, you know, just didn’t work out for us. ‘20, Ronald was a little banged up; Ozzie was a little banged up. But we still got one game from the World Series.”
“This year, even though we lost Ronald in July, we played with the group we have for the last two months, it’s been a whole different team. It’s just a whole different outlook for us and how we go forward with the way we finished.”
Charlie Morton will get the start for the Braves in Game 1 and this has to be the exact situation that the team envisioned him pitching in when they signed him last offseason. Morton has been a big game pitcher in the postseason and the Braves will be looking for more of that Friday.
Morton was Atlanta’s most consistent pitcher throughout the regular season and finished strong allowing just 10 runs over his final 34 2/3 innings. He has 13 career playoff appearances posting a 3.38 ERA in 61 1/3 innings.
Milwaukee went 95-67 this season and wrapped up the central division early largely on the backs of its starting rotation which finished second in fWAR behind the Dodgers. Their offense ranked 23rd with a 91 wRC+ but there is a level of scrappiness to this group and their defensive success paired nicely with their pitching staff.
“I would say they’re pretty balanced. There’s some power there,” Morton said of the Brewers. “There’s some scrappiness there and everything in between. I mean, they’ve got some speed. I think they’re just a well-rounded team overall.”
“When we get our pregame sheets for scouting, most of the time we have a pretty good idea of who is going to be in there. I probably pick six or seven guys. I would say, though, I’m going to have to know maybe 11 guys because I really don’t know who they’re going to round out the lineup with. I would say there’s some guys that it looks like they do a really good job with the breaking balls. There’s some guys that look like they do a really good job with heaters. I don’t think they’re built one way.”
Morton faced the Brewers once during the regular season back on August 1 and allowed three hits and two runs over six innings in a 2-1 loss.
Milwaukee will go with right-hander Corbin Burnes who should be a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award after turning in a banner season. Burnes made 28 starts and posted a 2.43 ERA and a 1.63 FIP. His 35.6% K-rate led all qualified starters in 2021 with Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler finishing at distant second at 29.1%.
Burnes only faced the Braves once during the regular season and it was arguably his worst start of the season where he allowed nine hits and five runs in just four innings. Atlanta scored four runs in the first but went on to lose 9-5. While it is good that the Braves have had some recent success against Burnes, they shouldn’t expect it to be that easy on Friday.
“Just the stuff was really, really good. And you watch a video of him, and it’s like it’s even better than what I remembered, quite honestly, Brian Snitker said of Burnes. “I just remember I think we scored four runs in the first inning, which I thought, man, that’s pretty good off this guy, because you just look at his numbers. I was looking at the left and right slugs are almost nonexistent against him.”
So there is no doubt that the Braves will have their work cut out for them but they are feeling pretty good to be in the position they are in. The addition of Morton along with the added experience of Max Fried and Ian Anderson give them hope that their own big three can match up well against Milwaukee’s.
“It’s big. That’s why we got Charlie when we signed him and it is, it’s different,” Snitker said of Morton’s addition for the playoffs. “Ian’s a year older — Max, Charlie — Ynoa has come a long way since then. And it was, pretty much last year we were just putting together, piecing it together, literally. But this year I feel good. I like where our bullpen is at. I like our starting options and we’ve been kind of playing on edge for a long time now. I’m anxious to get going.”
Game Date/Time: Friday, October 8, 4:37 p.m. ET
Location: American Family Field, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network