The Atlanta Braves discussed plenty of options in the lead up to Wednesday, but eventually settled on Bryce Elder as the team’s starter for Game 3. The move isn’t terribly surprising given that Elder spent the entire season in the rotation, but he struggled enough down the stretch that the decision warranted some thought.
“We had talked to him up to right before we got on the plane yesterday. I think we just kind of felt like after the way he threw at the intersquad and with the layoff, that he was the guy,”Brian Snitker said Wednesday of the decision to go with Elder. “He’s been a starter for us all year. It was a big reason why we won the decision. We liked what we saw.”
Elder was Gwinnett’s starter on Opening Day, but quickly moved into the rotation and stuck there after injuries to Max Fried and Kyle Wright. He produced a 2.97 ERA in the first half and was selected to the All-Star Game. He struggled down the stretch though and looked worn down after throwing a career-high 174 2/3 innings. The Braves could have pitched him on the final day of the regular season, but opted not to.
“Yeah. Absolutely, because you know what, I think he’s a young guy, in his first full year,” Snitker said. “I think the skip in the start and just the rest was good for him, and, during the intersquad, we liked what we saw.”
Most of Elder’s struggles could be tied to his command. Snitker said that the Braves had Elder work against their regular lineup during the scrimmage and they were pleased with his performance.
“Just the action on the pitches. When you looked at the Hawkeye and all that other than the naked eye,” Snitker said. “e threw him against our lineup, too, that day. It wasn’t like he was facing a minor league team. It was against our guys, and everybody felt, I think when that was over, that he was worth a discussion.”
Snitker said that rookie AJ Smith-Shawver was also in consideration and that Smith-Shawver will be in the bullpen and available in Game 3. Elder figures to have a short leash, but did pitch well in his only start at Citizens Bank Park this season.
“I feel good about this, the decision that we made,” Snitker said. “There is a guy that laid it on the line for you for however many starts all year, fought through some adversities as they all do. So I’m happy that he’s having this opportunity.”
Facing Aaron Nola and the Phillies crowd
The crowd in Philadelphia seemed to be a big factor in last year’s Division Series for the Braves. Snitker though said that he thinks it can work in favor of the Braves as well.
“Yeah. I think it can. I think the energy and emotion and everything, our guys could feed off that also,” Snitker said. “I think they’re excited about getting in this environment. It’s nuts and crazy and all that, but I think it’s a fun place to play for these guys.”
It probably doesn’t mean that much now, but Atlanta was 5-1 against the Phillies in Philadelphia during the regular season.
The Braves will face Aaron Nola in Game 3. Nola faced Atlanta three times during the regular season and allowed seven runs combined in the two starts at Truist Park. He tossed six shutout innings against them in his only home start. Nola has 33 career starts in the regular season against the Braves so there are few secrets at this point.
“Yeah. These guys know what they’re in for, because they all have so many at-bats against Nola the last few years,” Snitker said. “I don’t think we need to have any huge meetings or anything like that, because they know how he’s going to attack them. We got a lot of guys with a lot of experience against him. I think that can work both ways. He’s got a lot of experience against us, too.”
Spencer Strider will start Game 4
This was more of a confirmation than anything, but Snitker announced that Spencer Strider will start Game 4. The extra off days in the Division Series allow the Braves to pitch Strider on normal rest.
“We were fortunate that we don’t have to use anybody on short rest because of all the off days,” Snitker said.
Strider allowed two runs and struck out eight over seven innings in Game 1. A win in Game 3 Wednesday would set Strider up to pitch in the first close out game of his career.
“I think he’ll relish it,” Snitker said if Game 4 is a close out situation. “I think he was very excited to get that opening start in the playoff round, and I think he’ll be very excited and prepared and ready for the start tomorrow, too.”