The Playoffs Really Are Different, But Freddie Freeman is Still The Man: Braves 1, Reds 0, 13 Innings

As I commented, the last playoff game I recapped was over in the top of the 1st. This one wasn’t. The fact that the first two batters hit singles against Max Fried made me think that maybe it’s my fault. But after those two hits, Max coaxed two weak grounders sandwiching a weak liner to survive. I feel like I’m 10 runs up. I won’t feel that way for very long.

Trevor Bauer’s first two times through the Braves lineup was uneventful, unless you regard offensive ineptness as an event. In the 2nd, Ozzie Albies reached on an error, survived a replay on a steal, and was stranded by strikeouts of Adam Duvall and Dansby Swanson. That was followed by three more strikeouts in the 3rd. Only Freddie Freeman hit the ball hard, but Nicholas Castellanos made a nice running catch. In the bottom of the 4th, a pseudo-rally consisting of a hit batsman and infield hit was thwarted on another Duvall strikeout.

Meanwhile, Max was through 5 1/3 having not given up any hits to people not named Nicholas. And other than a scary Eugenio Suarez warning track out, we got more nonevents, unless you call weak contact an event. Then in the 6th, a great throw from Duvall to Riley knocked off Castellanos trying to get from first to third on a single from Joey Votto. That was an event.

Then: another event. On the third time through the lineup in the 6th, Ronald Acuna Jr. led off with a double, advanced to 3rd on a Freeman groundout, and led to the first example of the thing the Braves did worst all season: man on 3rd and less than 2 outs. Our bête noire continued with an Ozuna foul out and a d’Arnaud strikeout.

Fried’s 7th saw a one out bloop single from Aristides Aquino followed by hit batsman. At that point the Braves just missed turning an inning-ending double play. Then: event! The Reds tried the old double-delayed-steal-get-in-a-rundown play. Aquino broke to the plate and was run down by Riley just before reaching the plate. Just your standard 2-4-3-2-5 caught stealing of home. I don’t have my Retrosheet database up and running for postseason play, but a 24325 caught stealing is pretty damned unusual. The only other time it happened in the regular season was 9/21/98 in this game with Wade Boggs the victim.

Fried’s 7 innings pitched was great, the defense behind him was great, and the only fly in the ointment was that Bauer pitched better. (Has anyone ever seen a fly in ointment? Is it really a bad thing?) Chris Martin pitched a clean 8th. Then Bauer finally left in the bottom of the 8th and the bullpen battle began.

Melançon pitched a clean 9th… for once. In the bottom of the 9th, Freeman walked, Ozuna struck out, as did d’Arnaud, as did Albies. So much for a walk being a rally, Chip.

At this point my mind wanders to Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Great pitching performances by the two starters, and a win in the bottom of the 10th by the home team. But first, Will Smith in the top of the 10th. A gopher ball pitcher facing a gopher ball team. I’m not happy. But another clean inning.

The 10th starts with another Caray-rally: a walk to Duvall from Lucas Sims. Much commentary ensued when Dansby Swanson was not asked to bunt. I’m on Snit’s side here. The bunt is the obviously correct play if you have players who know how to execute a bunt. I suspect they just don’t trust Swanson to execute a bunt. I suspect there have been no bunts in the batting cage all season. Instead, he hit into a force play, Markakis grounded out, and Riley struck out.

Smith struck out the first batter in the 11th, followed by Darren O’Day. He started with a strikeout, but Castellanos got the 4th hit by a Nicholas on the day. An intentional walk to Votto and an unintentional walk to Suarez meant that it Matzek against Moustakas with the bases loaded and two outs. The three pitch strikeout was about as awesome as anything I’ve seen this year.

Bottom of the 11th. Top of the order. Gotta be, right? Nope. Acuna popped up a 3-0 pitch. Freddie struck out, as did Ozuna.

Then the 12th. Aquino and Winker start off with singles. 1st and 3rd, mirroring the first inning. Matzek fanned Farmer, Barnhart and Galvis. Look: I know everybody is frantic that the Braves can’t seem to hit in the postseason, but you can’t feel much better if you’re the Reds.

Now to the bottom. D’Arnaud leads off with a single, Culberson in to pinch run.Another bunt situation… another bunt eschewed. Albies hits into a fielder’s choice, advances to second on a wild pitch, and stares helplessly as Duvall and Swanson strike out.

Lucky 13th. Shane Greene takes over. After a one out single by Votto and a wild pitch, we once again get 1st and 3rd with one out. Exit Greene. Enter Minter, walking Moutakas (on a really good at bat by Moustakas, to be honest) to load the bases. Aquino strikes out and somebody named Garcia grounded out to end the inning.

Archie Bradley in. Now Markakis leads off with a single. (There were only 17 hits in this game, and 6 of them were by guys named Nick.) Pache comes in to pinch run. Bunt? With Riley? If Albies and Swanson aren’t bunting, there’s no way Riley is. And he singles. RAJ shatters his bat on a fielder’s choice at 2nd. Bête noire time. Archie Bradley out, Amir Garrett in. MVFree for the single and the win. Had it all the way.

So the basic story coming in was that the Braves needed to bludgeon good starting pitcher and depend on their stellar bullpen. Some of that was right. Fried hung in, matching Bauer, and the bullpen was stellar. Now we just need the bludgeons. A walk may not be a rally, but a strikeout sure as hell isn’t.

I’m exhausted. We have at least one more of these. Somebody else recap that one.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

26 thoughts on “The Playoffs Really Are Different, But Freddie Freeman is Still The Man: Braves 1, Reds 0, 13 Innings”

  1. I’m exhausted, so I’m not sure how you can recap so quickly, so chapeau

    There’s a little part of me thinks the Braves were due to have a positive outcome to a game like this

    But I’m not putting myself through it again tomorrow

  2. Congratulations, JonathanF! That was some spectacular work on deadline. What a marathon. But I do have an answer to one of your questions:

    Has anyone ever seen a fly in ointment?


  3. Obviously if any of his moves would have failed, Snitker would have been questioned all day long, but I think he made a lot of good calls. Saving Pache until the end to pinch run, the short leash on Greene and O’Day, … The only issues he may have had were lack of bunting (I never thought I would even suggest that from a Braves manager) and some could have questioned leaving Matzek in too long (although it worked). Overall, I think he deserves some credit.

  4. Back to our conversation about Freeman’s postseason career a couple weeks ago, he has a new signature postseason moment. I think this beats his eventual game-winning homer against the Dodgers in Game 3 ’18, but whichever order you put them in, you can definitely add this to the list.

    On Snitker, I think his usage of the bullpen was pitch perfect today. I wasn’t a fan of leaving Matzek in at the time, but he clearly knew what he was doing. I’d have bunted with Dansby in the situation that caused A-Rod’s head to explode and would’ve had Ozzie try to steal second in the 12th, but it’s tough to complain about much after this result.

  5. The offense was excruciating, but what a performance by the pitching staff, and, yes, great moves by Snit.
    I’ll confess that I love this kind of game. The Braves were in a lot of tight pitchers duels in the playoffs in the early 90s. I’ll take 1-0 over 10-9 any day of the week (as long as the Braves win, of course:))
    One other point: today’s game has no predictive value for tomorrow’s game. The Braves could just as easily have double digit hits and lots of runs tomorrow as they could have a lousy game on offense. They are the best offensive team in the league, so in fact they are more likely to score several runs. I’m more concerned about Anderson and Wright coming through in this series and beyond. But I choose to be optimistic.

  6. I will echo the praise for Snit’s win-game decisions. PRing for Travis was maybe questionable, but Flowers is the better framer and Travis’s bat is going to be in high demand for the rest of the series. Best to take hm out and give him what rest you can. Not sure I feel about him letting Maz gut it out, but all’s well that ends well in this case.

  7. Melancon, Martin, and Greene all threw 11 pitches. O’Day 15, Minter 16. Smith (19) and Matzek (24) are probably unavailable. Webb, Dayton, and Tomlin were not used. So we could probably re-use Green, Martin, and Melancon, and probably not on Minter, O’Day, and Smith. Don’t really want to give the ball to Tomlin outside of long relief. Don’t trust Webb, wouldn’t mind Dayton.

    So, long story short, we may have 2-3 good options for tomorrow out of the pen.

  8. I like rooting for chaos, so I was hoping one of the Reds position players would be ejected since they had used all of their bench. (I suppose I would’ve taken a non-serious injury like a cramp too.) We still had Camargo, Contreras, and Panda.

  9. It wasn’t great that Matzek got into that situation, but once there, he was probably the best bet to get out of it. We really needed some strikeouts there, especially for that first out.

  10. Well done, JonathanF, to recap this so well after an exhausting afternoon and so quickly. Now we just have to win one out of two. Good luck, but to be fair their pitching staff was just as run down as was ours. Neither line-ups looked great today. Both staffs did. We knew they had good pitching. We thought we had good hitters. Now let’s prove it tomorrow. Please? I can’t go through another one of these so soon.

  11. Bravo JonathanF and bravo Braves!
    I’m with you tfloyd, I love the drama and tension of every at bat in a low scoring pitching duel. Especially in the postseason.
    Rob, I don’t think O’Day, Smith and even less so Minter are unavailable tomorrow. Especially if a lefty on lefty matchup is needed with the latter. Neither had really high pitch counts and have often pitched back to back days during the season. The whole staff just had 2 off days and Minter hadn’t pitched since Saturday.

  12. In case you’re wondering how other games are going, ESPN is slobbering all over “Hall of Famer” Yadier Molina for the last five minutes.

  13. Early on it seemed like a couple of fly balls that had a chance to get out died before I expected them to. Are different balls being used in the postseason, or did the cooler weather have a big impact on how well the ball carried?

  14. Yes – Snit yanked Fried at the right moment, and I think it’s hard to argue with his tactical decisions. The pitching was phenomenal – Fried was as good as hoped and the pen was as good as they’ve been all year. The major failures were entirely on the offense. Maybe tomorrow they’ll score 30.

  15. Iglesias threw 26 pitches, Sims 20, and Lorenzen 27, which could help. Nobody wants to get into a bullpen depth war with the Braves.

  16. Another unsung hero: Riley. He played a big role in keeping it tied at 0 through 9 with his defense, and also had the hit that set up MVFree in the 13th.

  17. @16, felt like that was the case during the last week of the regular season, too. Of course, we’ve also been having one of the colder Septembers in recent memory.

  18. Thank you, JonathanF. What a game. Let’s do it again today.
    Echoing what everyone’s saying about Snits decisions today. He did extremely well. I think every RP will be available today. If we win this one, there are several days to rest to come. Go for the win today. Go Braves.

  19. @23, I recall some balls in the 2019 NLDS that looked like goners and just died. I remember Hech hit a ball with the bases loaded in STL that looked like it was gone off the bat but it died on the warning track.

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