The Atlanta Braves will turn to rookie Spencer Strider for Game 3 against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the NLDS. The decision was between Strider and veteran Charlie Morton for the start and Braves manager Brian Snitker said that the discussion went into late Thursday night before they made the final determination.
“We went into last night talking about that,” Snitker said of the decision to go with Strider. “Because like I told you the other day, we put this kid on the roster to pitch him and because we won the game the other night on Wednesday with Kyle going deep into the game and pretty much the state of our bullpen.”
“He’s not going to go seven innings today,” Snitker added on Strider. “We know we’re going to use the bullpen and probably when we were talking about this, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself, that was kind of the scenario we were hoping for is a good start, win the game. Know we’re going to play four. It kind of lined up with where our bullpen is.”
Thanks to Thursday’s off day, the Braves come in with a fully rested bullpen. Snitker says that the team will take an inning-by-inning approach with Strider and that they have a number in mind for pitches and innings. Coming off the off day, that was a good time to go with Strider.
“We’re going to just take him inning by inning. We have kind of a best-case scenario,” Snitker said of how long Strider might be able to go. “We’ll see how he gets, what happens each and every inning. We have kind of a number in mind and an innings, but we’re going to let that thing develop and see where we’re at.”
Strider's last pitched on September 18. He reported soreness in his oblique right after and they elected to skip his turn in the rotation. He felt soreness again once he returned to the mound which led to him being placed on the injured list for the remainder of the regular season. The team was extra cautious with him over those final weeks and Snitker said that he likely wouldn’t have been an option if the Braves had not won the division and had to play in the Wild Card series. He has thrown at least two bullpen sessions in the lead up to his Game 3 start, but how far he can realistically and safely go is something that team isn’t going to divulge.
“That’s why I think we do have a target area, I guess, that we’ll look at and don’t want to take him past because of the fatigue and everything,” Snitker said. “I just talked to him this morning, he’s planning on going nine innings. That’s what makes this kid who he is. He’s not kidding me when he says that either. In his mind he thinks he can go out and go nine innings, but I just said, let’s just go win an inning first.”
Ronald Acuña Jr. ok after getting hit in elbow
Ronald Acuña Jr. was hit in the right elbow by a pitch from Zack Wheeler in Game 2. Acuña was down in pain for several minutes while being attended to by the team’s training staff. He ultimately stayed in the game and came around to score the first run of Atlanta’s three-run inning. Snitker said that there were no lingering effects for Acuña’s elbow heading into Game 3.
“The trainers are all good with him,” Snitker said. “The biggest thing, it worked out good that he scored and we had some time. That inning kept going and it was just about getting feeling back.”
After Acuña scored, he went and tested his arm out in the cages and ultimately stayed in the game.
“By the time that inning was over, he was throwing in the cage and was good to go. So I think if that inning would have ended with him at second base, I’m not 100 percent sure we would have felt comfortable running him back out there, but because we had some time and we could test him out a little bit in the cage everybody felt good. I don’t know if we could have kept him out, he was bound and determined to go back.”
Acuña is off to a great start in the series going 4-for-7 with a double and a walk in the first two games. Having him in the lineup is obviously a big key for the Braves’ lineup.
“It’s a big difference when he’s there as opposed to not being there. I mean there’s no doubt,” Snitker said. I think his legs seem to be feeling good and when that’s happening and he can us them, he’s a difference maker.”
Vaughn Grissom replacing Orlando Arcia in Game 3 lineup
Vaughn Grissom is back in the Braves’ starting lineup for Game 3 replacing Orlando Arcia at second base. Arcia has struggled in his career against Nola going 0-for-15 with a walk and five strikeouts in 16 plate appearances. Snitker cited Arcia’s career struggles as a reason to go with Grissom Friday.
“Pretty much, that’s what I talked to him about,” Snitker said. “It’s, right or wrong, whatever, you just need to be ready because he has done so well. He’s had enough at-bats where it’s the right sample size.”
Grissom was brought to the majors from Double A after Arcia suffered a hamstring injury in August. He energized the club posting a 131 wRC+ through his first 20 games. He continued his hot stretch to start September, but was 6-for-39 with four walks and 13 strikeouts over his last 13 games of the regular season.
“I’m glad we have a guy like that that we can put out there,” Snitker said of Grissom. “I liked his at-bats the other day, the last day of the season. He hadn’t played a lot. He had some pretty good at-bats in Miami.”
“Like I told Orlando, it’s just one of those things, managers come in, they make those — they have a hunch or whatever and hope it works.”
Starting Grissom alongside Strider and Michael Harris will give the Braves three rookies in the lineup for Game 3 which was something that Snitker said he didn’t realize when he was making out the lineup card.
“It’s a credit to our organization,” Snitker said. “Our scouting, player development, the whole organization. It’s just a credit to the strength of our whole organization, I think in not only how deep we are with players but internally.”
Michael Harris ready to breakout?
Speaking of Harris, he is 0-for-7 through the first two games of the NLDS, but that doesn’t mean he has been having bad at-bats. Harris has hit four balls with an exit velocity of 98+ mph in the series including two of 102 and 103.9 mph against Zach Wheeler in Game 2.
“It’s been good. I look at Michael thinking he’s kind of like a time bomb waiting to go off here because at any point in time this kid can explode,” Snitker said. “Marcell too. I’m looking at him as just the experience that he has against these guys that we’re facing. He had some good at-bats the other day too.”
Harris is 2-for-11 in his career against Nola, but both hits were home runs at Citizens Bank Park.