The feeling around the Atlanta Braves is much different Tuesday as they depart for Philadelphia with the Division Series tied at a game apiece. Atlanta appeared to be dead in the water about midway through Game 2, before scoring five unanswered runs for a stunning comeback win.
Having avoided falling into an 0-2 hole, the attention now turns to Game 3 where the Braves still have not announced their plans for a starter. Brian Snitker met with the media during Tuesday’s off day and said that they are still looking at their options and could go the traditional route or utilize an opener.
“That’s the type of things we’re looking at really. So we got the rest of the morning when I get done here, we’re gonna go discuss it more,” Snitker said of the Game 3 decision.
“Length wise, we have some options,” he added. “There’s a lot of things. If we want to do an opener, who we are going to follow up with, if we decide to do that. If we want to just go the traditional route, there’s just a lot of different scenarios that we’re looking at.”
The starter for Game 3 wouldn’t be a question at all had Charlie Morton not suffered a finger injury that landed him on the injured list. The Braves are hoping that Morton will be recovered in time to pitch in the NLCS should they advance. Bryce Elder would be an option as well, but he struggled down the stretch and it is telling that they haven’t just came outright and named him. Another option could be rookie right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver, who made his major league debut this season as a 20-year old. Smith-Shawver showed increased velocity in a start against the Cubs in September and looked good in the sim game workouts at Truist Park last week. Still, having him make his postseason debut on the road in front of what is expected to be a wild crowd at Citizens Bank Park is no easy ask.
“He’s obviously one of the guys in the conversation,” Snitker said of Smith-Shawver. “We weigh all that stuff in our discussions. It is a wild scenario there. I think we’re leaning one way, but we’re just gonna try and finalize it here probably in the next hour.”
Snitker added that the environment at Citizens Bank Park in the Division Series was as loud as he has ever seen.
“I think it’s as nuts a place as I’ve ever been. That’s for sure,” Snitker said. “There may be a few guys that have not experienced that until they get there. I’m sure these guys are talking about it. But I think for the most part, when you’ve been through what these guys have been through, it kind of jacks them up too.”
Whoever starts is going to have to deal with that Philly crowd and one of the most effective ways would be to score some early runs. Atlanta is no stranger for Phillies’ Game 3 starter Aaron Nola. Nola faced the Braves three times during the regular season while allowing seven runs over 18 innings. Five of those runs came in one start at Truist Park. He tossed six scoreless innings against Atlanta in June in Philadelphia.
“We got guys that have had a lot of history with him. I know he was really good the last time he pitched against us,” Snitker said of Nola. “He’s one of the top pitchers in baseball. Just, the assortment that he has, how he can extend games. We’ve had a few guys that have done okay off of him. He’s done okay off us too. So, he’s a tough ride because he’s got so many weapons and he throws strikes, he can command his fastball. You just gotta get in there and fight like we did last night. “You’ve got 27 outs to make something happen.”