NLDS Recap: Braves Pitching, Clutch Hitting Oust Brewers

NLDS Recap: Braves Pitching, Clutch Hitting Oust Brewers

by October 13, 2021 2 comments

The National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers had a combined run total of nine runs in the first three games. Then in the clinching Game 4 for the Braves, the teams combined to score nine runs. This series was everything and more that we could have hoped for, as the Braves pitchers were able to match the Brewers aces. Coming into it, a lot of people, including myself, thought this series would lean more towards Milwaukee. But it was a lot more evenly matched with every game being a chess match. Atlanta won three straight to clinch in front of their home crowd which was a great scene. 

Game 1: Milwaukee 2, Atlanta 1

Setting the bar for how the series would go, the first game was a pitcher’s duel between Corbin Burnes and Charlie Morton. The Braves’ veteran right-hander worked some of his “Morton Magic” as he matched zeroes with Burnes through the first 6 1/3 innings. He struck out the side in the first inning, and five of the first six Brewers went down on strikeouts. Morton struck out another in the third, two in the fourth, and one in the fifth, finishing with nine punchouts and 16 whiffs in his outing. Meanwhile, Burnes was able to work out of a jam in the first inning. He was helped out by an outstanding play by Rowdy Tellez that thwarted any chance of the Braves striking first. 

The Brewers’ ace would then strike out four in the first three innings and six over his six innings of work. The right-hander didn’t allow much movement on the basepaths. There were only four baserunners on after the first inning with him on the mound. Burnes was pinch-hit for in the sixth to put a bow on his day. After hitting Avisail Garcia to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Morton surrendered a deep two-run shot off the bat of Tellez, as it got “Rowdy” in Milwaukee.

The only scoring Atlanta could muster was in the eighth as Joctober got started. Joc Pederson launched a pinch-hit solo shot off of Adrian Houser.

Josh Hader came in to shut the door in the ninth and worked his way into and out of trouble.

Game 2: Atlanta 3, Milwaukee 0

It was another shutdown game for Atlanta pitching with Max Fried matching what Morton did in Game 1. The southpaw struck out nine Brewers over six innings, and unlike Morton, he didn’t surrender a run on just three hits. Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith combined to give up three hits and three walks while striking out five over the final three innings. The scoring started in the third for the Braves, as Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies each had RBI hits off Brandon Woodruff. Then in the sixth, with Woodruff still in the game, Austin Riley smacked a solo homer for his second career postseason home run. His first came in the NLCS against the Dodgers last season.

Smith induced a game-ending double play in the ninth to even the series at one before heading to Atlanta.

Game 3: Atlanta 3, Milwaukee 0

Joctober rose once again in Game 3 after both starters threw zeroes up once again through the first four innings. Both starters, Braves’ Ian Anderson and Brewers’ Freddy Peralta were cruising. A big opportunity to score for Atlanta was turned away in the second. With one out and runners on the corners, Travis d’Arnaud hit a flyball to left that was deep enough to score Riley from third. But for whatever reason, Adam Duvall was tagging up from first and was gunned at second on the throw from Christian Yelich. The tag came before Riley touched home. This could have been a huge turn in the game, but the Brewers just never got much going at the plate.

Milwaukee’s best chance came in the fifth as Luis Urias was hit by a pitch before Omar Narvaez dumped in a double to left. Lorenzo Cain came up after smashing into the wall the previous inning. He lined one hard to short, but Dansby Swanson made a great diving stop and threw onto first for the out. Peralta was only at 57 pitches through four, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out five. But because the universal DH is not a thing this season, Craig Counsell had to make a decision and pinch-hit for him with Daniel Vogelbach. Anderson induced a grounder and Riley got the out at home before Kolten Wong sharply lined out to end the frame.

The move to the pinch-hitter immediately backfired, as Houser came in and gave up back-to-back singles. With Anderson’s spot coming up, it was Joctober once again, as Pederson hit another pinch-hit homer. This time it was worth three runs and put the Braves up.

It was a lead they would never relinquish. Anderson struck out six and allowed only three hits over five shutout innings. He was followed by a shutout inning each from Jesse Chavez, Matzek, Jackson, and Smith.

Game 4: Atlanta 5, Milwaukee 4

This game was going the same way the first three had gone over the first few innings. Morton and Eric Lauer matched zeroes for the first three innings, while Morton struck out five and Lauer struck out two. Then in the fourth, Morton got into some trouble as he allowed a single, had a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and walked a batter. Omar Narvaez singled to score Garcia, which knocked out Morton on a short leash. Chavez came in and allowed another run on a Cain RBI single.

Things got weird in the bottom of the fourth. Following a single from Riley, Duvall popped out in foul territory where Narvaez went to try and make the catch. It went in and out of his glove, but third baseman Urias was right there for the rebound. But after further review, or “not review” it was clear to see that the ball hit the ground. For whatever reason, the play is apparently not reviewable because it was a “trap” so the call stood.

After a walk and hit by pitch, Hunter Strickland came on for Lauer, in which Brian Snitker matched with Eddie Rosario to pinch hit for Chavez. Rosario came through, tying the game on a single. A tremendous play from Lauer got the Brewers out of further damage. That was when the back-and-forth would begin. Huascar Ynoa was the new pitcher for the Braves in the fifth. He surrendered a go-ahead two-run shot to Tellez for his second homer of the series to put the Brewers up again. The long ball really quieted the Atlanta faithful, but it didn’t take long for them to get loud again.

Pederson drove in a run on a fielder’s choice ground ball in the bottom half, before d’Arnaud tied it on a single through the right side. This came off of Aaron Ashby. A.J. Minter retired four Brewers in a row from the sixth and seventh, including three punchouts. Jackson replaced him in the seventh and set the next two down for the second straight 1-2-3 inning. Matzek pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the eighth to set up the Braves to face Hader in the bottom half. After the first two were set down via the strikeout, Freeman jumped all over the first pitch, launching a go-ahead homer to left field and sending Truist Park into oblivion.

Smith then shut the door on the Brewers, striking out Adames and Yelich to end the game and send the Braves to the NLCS.

Statistics 

For the Braves, Riley went 5-for-15 (.333) with a homer to lead the lineup. Freeman wasn’t hitting much over the first three games (1-for-8) but went 3-for-5 in Game 4 including the big homer in the eighth. Pederson came up clutch off the bench, going 3-for-3 in pinch-hit situations, including the two home runs. Anderson and Fried both pitched gems, combining to allow just six hits and striking out 17 in 11 shutout innings. They both earned the win in their starts. The bullpen came up big, with Smith saving all three Braves wins. Jackson, Matzek, Chavez, Minter, and Smith didn’t allow any runs in 15 2/3 innings of relief. In fact, the only runs the bullpen was charged were the two runs Ynoa allowed in Game 4. 

For the Brewers, they couldn’t find any big hits through the first three games. Until the fourth inning of Game 4, Milwaukee had been 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position. Tellez hit two big home runs for them in games one and four. Adames 5-for-17 in the series, while no one else had more than three hits. Burnes was the best starter with his six strikeouts in six shutout innings. Strickland pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief and threw up zeroes while allowing just one hit. 

What’s Next? 

The Braves move onto their second straight NLCS, where they will face either the Dodgers or the Giants. That series goes to a Game 5 back in San Francisco on Thursday. The Braves will have home-field advantage if the Dodgers win, but not the Giants. If it is in fact the Dodgers, it will be a rematch of last year’s NLCS. Los Angeles went on to win that series in seven games and the World Series over the Rays. One big question for Atlanta is if Jorge Soler will be available, as he tested positive for COVID-19 before Game 4. The Brewers look to build off their division-winning season and get back next year.

Series: NLCS

Teams: Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers/San Francisco Giants

Date: Begins on Saturday, Oct. 16, time TBD

TV: TBS


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