Atlanta has to find a way to breakthrough against Milwaukee’s rotation.
We were expecting a low scoring, high pressure matchup in the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers and that was exactly what Game 1 delivered. As is the case in most close games, there were several key moments that came back to haunt Atlanta.
The Braves had an opportunity to stake themselves to an early lead putting runners at the corners with no one out in the first inning. However, Ozzie Albies grounded out to first and Rowdy Tellez gunned down Jorge Soler at the plate.
“It’s big, when you face a starting pitcher like that. If you let them off the hook, they’ll get settled in and find their location and all that,” Brian Snitker said of the missed opportunities against Burnes. “You love to get to a pitcher like that early before he gets settled in, because they get out of an inning like that and things happen like it did.”
Albies’ grounder to first had an exit velocity of 69.5 mph off the bat. It wasn’t hit very hard but Tellez made a good throw and Omar Narvaez got the tag down in time. Snitker didn’t want to second guess the decision to send Soler.
“I don’t put it on him. Probably 95 percent of the guys would go on that,” Snitker said of the play. ”Because you can’t react quick enough and think quick enough on that play right there.”
“If that ball is tapped out in front of the plate, then you can shut it down. It’s hard to shut down that ball right there. He had to make a good throw too. The catcher made a nice play.”
Burnes needed 40 pitches to get through the first two innings. He settled in from there and threw up zeroes before exiting in the sixth.
Morton matched him pitch-for-pitch and recorded nine strikeouts through the first five innings. He ran into trouble in the sixth issuing a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach. He fell behind Kolton Wong 2-0 but got him to fly out harmlessly to left for the first out. Willy Adames and Chirstian Yelich both flew out to leave the runner stranded.
Morton came back out to pitch in the seventh and quickly jumped ahead of Avisail Garcia before hitting him with a 1-2 pitch. He again got ahead of Tellez 1-2 but let a fastball out over the plate that Tellez drove out to center for a two-run home run.
Following the game, Snitker was asked about the decision to send Morton back out there for the seventh. He was at just 75 pitches at that point but seemed to start to lose some command in the sixth. Still, Snitker said that Morton felt good and he didn’t hesitate about sending him back out for another inning.
“Not at all. I talked to him. He said he felt good,” Snitker said of Morton. If he’d have had 10 or 15 more pitches I probably wouldn’t have, but I thought he was in an area where all year long we’ve let him go back. I wouldn’t second-guess because you have to take your hat off to the hitter. He didn’t miss it, didn’t foul it off. I was glad he could go back out. I would have hit for him that inning if we would have got down there.”
Atlanta had another opportunity in the ninth when Josh Hader walked Freddie Freeman to begin the ninth. After Ozzie Albies struck out, Riley singled to left to put runners at first and second. Adam Duvall then hit a tapper out in front of the plate and Narvaez pounced on it and threw to second for the second out putting runners at the corners.
The Braves then opted to send Orlando Arcia to the plate to bat for Eddie Rosario. Hader then got Arcia to ground to second for the final out. Arcia was a peculiar choice given that Atlanta still had its full complement of bench options available with the exception of Joc Pederson. Arcia had a 48 wRC+ for the season and a 77 wRC+ in his career against left-handed pitchers. Guillermo Heredia hit .258/.330/.427 with a 101 wRC+ and would have likely gone into the game to replace Rosario had the Braves tied the game. At that point, any of Heredia, Ehire Adrianza or William Contreras all look like better options.
Overall it was a disappointing result, but the task doesn’t really change for Atlanta. They still need only to split one of the two games in Milwaukee and then take care of business at home.
“I feel good going into Game 2. I have Max Fried pitching. I feel good every time he takes the mound for us,” Snitker said. “We knew this ball game was going to be rough. The runs would be at a premium and they were. It was exactly what I thought that this game would be. Somebody got a big hit and a lot of times most of the big hits in the postseason they’re homers. They hit one and we didn’t.”
Fried will match up against Brandon Woodruff in Game 2 on Saturday.