The Atlanta Braves have been here before. After dropping Game 1 to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday, the Braves are back Wednesday and focused on getting a split at home before heading back out on the road. There is no panic, because they have been in big spots throughout the last four postseason runs including last season when they dropped Game 1 of the NLDS to the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We were at this point last year,” Austin Riley said of the team’s mindset heading into Game 2. “There’s no panic, it’s just a matter of coming in today and executing our game plan. When guys are in scoring position, having those key at-bats. That’s what it comes down to.
“There’s a sense of urgency, you definitely want to get this one today,” Riley added, “but at the same time, you can’t put that unwanted pressure on yourself. You’ve just got to go out there play baseball and let things come to you.”
The Braves won the next three games against the Brewers which set them on course for their first World Series Championship since 1995. The path won’t be easy with Zack Wheeler lined up for Wednesday and Aaron Nola scheduled for Game 3 Friday night in Philadelphia. As has been their mantra throughout the season, the Braves are focused on the game that is in front of them and aren’t worried about what took place yesterday.
“We’ve been through this a lot. We started out the run last year in the same situation,” Brian Snitker said. “I think these guys have been very good about putting yesterday behind because the only thing we can control is the day. We talk a lot about that. You come out, you prepare to win the game today because yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is light years away. The only thing we focus on right now is today. This group has been resilient.”
The Braves will go with Kyle Wright in Game 2 Wednesday in what is the biggest start of his career. Wright seemed to turn the corner when he was pressed into emergency duty during the World Series last season. He came to spring training looking to lock down a rotation spot and has emerged as one of Atlanta’s most consistent starters.
“Just more mature,” Snitker answered when asked about the difference in Wright. “I think I’ve said this a number of times, just the first day I saw him in spring training he was a different guy. I think the greatest thing we could have done last year was leave him in Triple-A. With the consistency of the work, he figured out who he is. We ask so much of these guys at a young age when we draft them and bring them up and they get here. I just think those added innings and the consistency helped him a lot. I think that obviously the game in the World Series did him a lot of good. He just came to camp with a lot more focus and drive and just more confidence.”
The Braves will roll out a different lineup for Game 2 with right-hander Zack Wheeler on the mound. Matt Olson, who had two hits in Game 1, including a three-run home run in the ninth, moves up to the third spot in the order. Michael Harris moves back up to the sixth spot. Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario replace William Contreras and Robbie Grossman at DH and left field respectively.
“It’s pretty good. When I go and I look at matchups and everything, I look and he’s hit everybody,” Snitker answered when asked if he was encouraged by Ozuna’s good September numbers. “I mean, and his experience and all that. I was trying to give him enough to try to get him going, just because I knew a guy like that can be a big help. So hopefully he does.
Ozuna hit .321/.368/.585 with five doubles and three home runs in 16 games and a 164 wRC+ during September and October. Contreras put up an equally impressive September, but doesn’t have much experience against Wheeler going 1-for-6 with three strikeouts in his career against the Phillies’ right-hander. Ozuna is 8-for-36 with two doubles and a home run to go along with eight strikeouts.
Olson finished the season strong and Snitker said that he wanted to break up the right-handed hitters at the top of the order with a righty on the mound.
“Matt is swinging the bat pretty good and just to kind of break the right-handed run up a little bit,” Snitker said. “You never know what’s going to work. You know what, you make this line up out and you look at the numbers and who matches up good and all that. You run them out there and hopefully it plays.”
Spencer Strider update
Snitker said that Spencer Strider came out of his light bullpen session Tuesday feeling good. The only thing left for him is pitch in a game and they still aren’t ready to disclose how Strider will be used in this series.
“I think what we were looking for him was for him to throw, come in the next day, feel okay, and then get back out there, like he did yesterday,” Snitker said. “So I think he’s passed everything but pitching in a game right now. So we feel good about that. Now it’s just the determination of when and how we’re going to use him.”
The Braves still haven’t announced who will start Game 3 in Philadelphia on Friday. Strider and Charlie Morton would seem to be the options. An announcement could come after Game 2 Wednesday or during Thursday’s off day.
Tyler Matzek undergoing Tommy John surgery
Snitker announced prior to Game 1 that Tyler Matzek was in Texas having his elbow evaluated. He announced Wednesday that Matzek would undergo Tommy John surgery sometime today which will in effect take him out for the remainder of the postseason and all of the 2023 season.
“Actually he’s going into surgery today, he’s going to have the Tommy John, I think, probably as we speak right now,” Snitker said. “They evaluated him yesterday and usually when they do that, if they deem that’s what the action is, they’ll just keep him right there and do it. I think he’s probably going through it right now.”
“Hate it for him. He’s struggled with things all year. I don’t know, maybe this is the reason,” Snitker added. “I think him going ahead and getting it done and starting the process, I think he feels really good about that. I hate it for him that he can’t experience this again, but talking to him, when he left to go for the examination, he was in a good place, and I think he felt good about his future and going ahead and taking care of this.”