OK, Maybe a Little Tense, But I’ll Take It: Braves 8, Dodgers 7, Lead NLCS 2-0

Ho hum.  Another postseason game, another Braves postseason victory. Up two-zip in the NLCS, and they have won all 7 of their postseason games.

But the Fox announcers after the game were talking about how the Dodgers have the momentum in this series. That’s one point of view; I’d prefer to think the team that is up 2-0 is in a better position. A-Rod even said that the 7th to 9th innings tonight could be considered the first three innings of tomorrow’s game.  Thankfully, those seven runs won’t count in tomorrow’s game.  I know there have been a lot of strange new rules in this 2020 season, but as far as I know each game starts with a score of 0-0.

Yeah, it’s easy for me to be snarky and confident now.  But the bottom of ninth inning was just about the least pleasant one I’ve ever experienced in a Braves playoff win.  If Riley hadn’t come up with that shot by Pollack…well, I hate to imagine what state I’d be in. 

But let’s begin at the beginning. The first pitch of game was way up and in to RAJ.  My wife is very upset—they shouldn’t be able to do that! She feels very protective of Ronald, and she’s aware of what the Marlins have tried to do to him.  Fortunately it hit his bat on the knob, and not his hand or his head. Tough strike one!

Speaking of my wife, she doesn’t appreciate even a little bit how these announcers kept singing the praises of the Dodgers, without showing equivalent love for our Braves. As is almost always the case, I’m inclined to agree with her.  Here’s an example: they went on and on about how great rookie pitcher Tony Gonsolin is, and what a terrific job the Dodgers do in pitcher development. It seemed to us that weren’t sufficiently appreciative of Ian Anderson.

Turns out, Gonsolin was pretty terrific though three innings: nine up, nine down.  Anderson also held his opponent scoreless though three innings, but he was skating on thin ice. He issued four walks and a hit in those first three innings, and had thrown a gazillion pitches, but he kept his cool and kept the Dodgers off the board.  A terrific snare by Riley and incredible stretch by Freeman saved him from deep trouble in the first. In the third, he threw three terrific curveballs to the Dodgers’ Fresh Prince to get out of a bases loaded jam.

In the top of the 4th Acuña led off with a walk, and MVFreeman followed with a no doubt homer to right, his second in two nights. Two to nothing Braves.  Anderson held them scoreless again in the bottom of the frame, but having thrown 85 pitches and issued five bases on balls, Snit pulled the plug on Aqualung after four innings, with the Braves leading 2-0.  In the top of the 5th, the Braves erupted for four runs, on a run scoring double by Pache, a run scoring single by Freddie, a bases loaded walk to TDA, and a long sac fly by Ozzie.  All of a sudden it’s 6-0 and the game is well in hand (remember that thought). Let’s say a little more about Pache.  His patience and selectivity at the plate have been very impressive.  His rbi double came on a 3-2 pitch. The script on the TV screen said this was his first playoff rbi.  Well, yeah—it was his first major league rbi. Indeed, it was only his second big league hit.

Matzek relieved Ian and pitched two scoreless innings.  Man, what a revelation he’s been! Meanwhile, in the top of the 7th the Braves added another run on a ground rule double by Swanson to go up 7-0. 

So we’re all ready to coast on through to the finish line of this game and put that two games to none lead into the books.  For those of us that were around in 1996, a fuzzy image of Jim Leyritz was just underneath our conscious thoughts.  Even so, I was feeling pretty celebratory.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Dodgers finally got on the board on a 3 run shot by Seager.  Welp! But Chris Martin pitched a scoreless 8th, and then Ozzie homered in the 9th to make it 8-3.  The coolest thing was that for the second night in a row, Melancon caught Ozzie’s homer on the fly in the bullpen.  It was all great fun, and at that point we figured Melancon wouldn’t be needed to pitch in the ninth.

Instead, Snit called on Josh Tomlin to close out the game.  Some on this board were critical of the move, but I figured it made sense.  At least Tomlin never walks anyone, and with a five run lead that’s important.  And he didn’t walk anyone.  On the other hand, he did give up a single, a double, and a homer.  Now it’s 8-6. Melancon was brought in with 2 outs and the bases empty—but with Bellinger in the on deck circle representing the tying run.  Fortunately, he induced a grounder to second by Smith, but the usually sure-handed Albies booted it.  (Shades of Jose Lind in 1992! When you’ve watched enough baseball as I have over the years, the past isn’t dead; it’s not even past).  Bellinger then tripled, scoring Smith, putting the tying run 90 feet away, and placing all Braves fans’ hearts in their throats. Pollack then hit the aforementioned screamer to Riley, but he fielded it cleanly and made a strong accurate throw to Freeman to end it.  Braves win!

Turns out that homer Albies hit in the 9th was the difference, although you could also say that booting the grounder in the bottom of the inning is what made the home run so crucial. 

Perhaps Snitker made the wrong call in turning to Tomlin in the 9th. Obviously it didn’t work out. But from what I know about him, his steady presence in the dugout is just what this team needs. You certainly don’t want to get complacent, but you also don’t want to let the ninth inning tonight spook you. I trust him to have them on an even keel.

  *   *   *

Let us now praise famous pitchers:

October 13 is the 106th anniversary of the Braves first World Series championship.  You’ve heard how they were in last place on July 4th, but then turned it on to win the NL by 10.5 games. The Miracle Braves then swept the mighty Philadelphia A’s in 4 games.  Two Braves pitchers went 2-0 each.  Dick Rudolph tossed two complete games, giving up only one run in those 18 innings.  Bill James (before he invented sabermetrics, presumably) pitched one 9 inning shutout and won a second game with two scoreless innings in relief. Together they combined for 29 innings surrendering only one run.

In 1957 the Braves won their second World Series. (By the way, October 13 is the birthday of Eddie Mathews.)  Warren Spahn was the Hall of Famer and all time great, and he won one game with a 10 inning complete game.  But Lew Burdette was responsible for the other three Braves victories with three complete games.  Burdette won game five 1-0, and came back on two days rest to pitch another shutout in game 7 (Spahn was sick with the flu). For the Series he went 27 innings with an ERA of 0.67.

Many of you remember 1995.  Do you recall what an incredible lineup that Indians team fielded? Belle, Manny, Thome, Murray, Lofton, Baerga—it was as fearsome and deep as any offense I remember. Maddux opened the series by tossing nine innings, yielding only two hits, no walks, and no earned runs.  Glavine finished the series by going 8 shutout innings allowing only 1 hit.

There have been other phenomenal postseason pitching performances by the Braves over the years.  Remember Steve Avery against the Pirates in 1991? And although I’m not happy with John Smoltz the announcer, he was pretty terrific in October for the Braves for many years.

But move over, history, and make room for Ian Anderson.  He’s now started three postseason games.  He has yet to give up a run and has only surrendered six hits in 15 2/3 innings. The only other pitcher in major league history to give up no runs in his first three postseason starts was Christy Mathewson in 1905.

Anderson reminds me of history in another sense. He’s the Platonic ideal of what a top line starter was supposed to be when I was a kid.  He has a straight over the top delivery, which is what my little league coach insisted on.  His three pitches are the three classics: fastball, curve, and changeup.  (The One, the Two, and the Three).  He doesn’t mess with this modern stuff like two seamers and four seamers, or cutters and splitters.  He doesn’t even appear to throw a slider.

One of the most impressive things about Anderson is his poise.  Unlike certain other pitchers with good stuff we’ve seen the last couple of years (I’m not naming names, but you might think of them as Nolty and Fewk), he stays cool and continues to make his pitches, even when he’s a little off.  In that sense, he’s got a lot of Tom Glavine in him.

(I had also written up some stuff about how dominant our bullpen has been in this postseason.  Given the seven runs surrendered by the pen tonight, that section went into the trash bin. But did you realize the Braves staff had surrendered only 6 runs in the first 64 innings of the postseason? They’ve now surrendered 7 runs in the last 3 innings. )

  *   *   *

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I brought up 1914, 1957, and 1995. So far our team has always gone at least 30 years between World Series wins, but I’m really liking this team and their chances to shorten the span since the last one. The Braves have a chance to go up 3 games to none on Wednesday behind Kyle Wright.  You know, he’s another rookie starter who has yet to surrender a run in the postseason.  The Braves will be the “home” team on Wednesday. After tonight, I’m glad they will have the last at bat.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

54 thoughts on “OK, Maybe a Little Tense, But I’ll Take It: Braves 8, Dodgers 7, Lead NLCS 2-0”

  1. I really want Wright to have a scoreless 1st inning so we don’t have to hear about how the dodgers offense has carried on with the momentum from tonight.

  2. Well done.
    I don’t carefully monitor announcers and studio guys for relative praise statistics, but I actually think the Fox guys have been way more evenhanded than ESPN normally is. But more importantly, I don’t really care. I don’t see how Smoltz gushing over Gonsolin requires any evening up… Though, again, I think he showed plenty of Anderson love as well. I do think the cat feature was a bit much….

  3. I don’t really care about the announcers either. But my wife does! She’s very loyal to the guys with the A on their caps. And she never listens to a national broadcast; her only frame of reference is Chip and Frenchy.

  4. Great recap, thank you, Ryan.

    I don’t care about all the momentum talk. The Dodgers will wake up tomorrow morning and they will be still down 0-2.
    The Dodgers are the best team in baseball and will likely win a game or two this series. But I still strongly believe: Braves in 6.
    And, man, how could anyone argue that FF5 is not the best player in the NL this year?

  5. Snit would have used different relievers if the situation is different. Those seven dodgers runs wouldn’t happen if things were tighter. Now we have Greene, Smith and Melancon for tomorrow.

  6. @6

    Do we think that Snit really trusts Greene? I’m not convinced

    And it I think it was Bethany who said on previous thread about being all uphill from here – that may be true, but it’s uphill with a 2-0 lead and no matter what the talking heads say, I’d rather be the Braves from here

  7. tfloyd…

    ….a joyous commingling of words, anxiety be damned. Thank you. We had such a lock on things till the 9th, so long, it was difficult staying awake. Then a different world via an egregious double error. But it was his homer that won it as you reminded us. The Dodgers must have cried in their beer, so close. And who’s that damned kid at third they’ll be saying? Pray for Freddie’s hand.

  8. After all we’ve accomplished we’re still only 2 games up? Feels it should be 4. Three late tonight then and all should be well.

  9. Tip of the cap to Snit & co for choosing Camargo over Ender.

    So many choices make sense lately. This may be our year after all.

  10. Pun, fifties/sixties(?) crooner…

    Urias ….

    Urais are the ais of a woman in love
    And oh how they give you away.
    Why try to deny … etc

  11. Don’t recall my choice of words, but I think Bellinger is a very good bet to be a very dangerous hitter in 2021 and beyond. Unfortunately, I was proven right about him as a hitter a little earlier than I would’ve liked.

    I had no real problem with the call to Tomlin last night – if you can’t protect a five-run lead, you really don’t belong on the playoff roster, and he hadn’t worked in a while. Snit and his coaches do a lot of prep work on who needs to get work in and who should be left alone.

    The ineffectiveness of O’Day was a bit more worrisome. Even though in the cold light of day, up 2-0, our bullpen probably has no more question marks than theirs does. I haven’t completely lost faith in Minter, unlike blazon, but that 7th inning is probably going to do more to upend our future bullpen plans than the 9th. No one expected Tomlin to pitch high-leverage innings, but we did expect that of O’Day and Minter. I’m sure Snit gave a tremendous postgame speech, and I’m sure the guys needed it, to unwind the ball of tension in their stomachs.

    The next games are going to be a dogfight. Julio Urias is a really good pitcher, and if Kershaw is really good to go on Game 4, he’ll get to go up against something like Huascar Ynoa and a prayer. Our advantage could be awfully fleeting unless we keep taking care of business.

    One thing is clear, though: I was right in my series preview when I said that the way we’d beat them was our hitting. They have to fear our offense right now. Our guys can absolutely murder the ball. And they just never stop.

  12. The whole Fox broadcast team, and especially Smoltz, just has this attitude of “how will the Braves ever come back from being up two games?” I can’t stand watching them. I get it that they want LA to win because of perceived eyeballs that will be watching the World Series, but damn.

  13. Re Minter…still hoping his self confidence can – and must- be grown to the point where his first pitches immediately demand respect of the hitter and not a free preview as they were last night. By no means giving up on him.

  14. Yeah, I don’t care about the momentum thing. Tomlin gave up some runs. Whatever. If Wright pitches well, that storyline is buried.

    Anderson said he is absolutely ready to come back on short rest. Bullpen game in Game 4 then back to Fried and Anderson in 5 and 6?

    I hope Pache comes up with some big hits and he’s the OD center fielder next year.

  15. Yeah…when you embed your own answer into the question you’re asking, it leaves your interview subject nowhere to go. Not exactly a great moment in sports journalism!

  16. If I were a Dodgers fan (which I will never be!) then I suppose I’d feel like last night was at least a moral victory… they got to our pen and nearly came back from down 5 in the 9th!

    As a Braves fan, I would much rather limp to the Game 2 finish line for a narrow victory than lose on a positive note. Actual victory >> moral victory.

  17. @19 I am not impressed by the questions asked in pretty much all interviews this postseason. It’s so terrible. Hardly ever a non-leading question. No challenges. And if they try to challenge, like DOB did there, it’s just so clumsy. I’m no journalist at all and would be just as terrible, but it ain’t my job.

  18. @16 Really? I’m absolutely excited. They won. 2-0. Of course it will be tough from here on out but it would have been as well if the Braves won 8-4.

    Or what @20 Game, Blauser said.

  19. I almost always hate those questions — they usually have a format of something like, “That was a great victory. How are you feeling right now, after winning that awesome game?” or “That was a tough loss. How are you feeling right now, after losing?” I don’t mean to denigrate any of the journalists who have to attend those confabs, or any of the sideline reporters who have to ask the athletes how they’re feeling after a play, but I don’t generally think it’s an avenue to illumination. (Unless you get an all-time great like “THEY WERE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!”)

    The goal is to get the athlete to say anything more revealing than “I just try to take it one day at a time and not try to do too much.” And they seldom succeed. DOB is prickly but he’s a veteran, he knows his job, and he’s pretty close to a homer, the absolute opposite of an antagonistic reporter. He’s rooting for the team. He got rightly blown out of the water because he literally had no idea how to get Melancon to answer the question he was trying to ask: “You guys had that locked up and you nearly blew it. What the hell happened there, huh?”

  20. So fangraphs has ATL 72.9% to win the series now which seems about right, maybe a tad light. To win WS it’s ATL 40.9%, TB 38%, LAD 18.4%, Hou 2.7%.

    538, which should probably stick to what they do best (they had Miami as big series favorites over the Lakers IIRC) has ATL 59% to win the NLCS and to win WS it’s TB 42%, LAD!! 28%, Atl 28%, Hou 2%. Does not compute…

  21. On O’Day, I wouldn’t write him off just yet. He gave up a grounder that Albies couldn’t corral, a solid single to Taylor and struck out Betts. He’s not a the top of my most trusted relievers at the moment, but he can still get outs.

    Level of trust in bullpen:
    1 Melancon
    2 Martin
    3 W Smith
    4 Matzek
    5 Minter
    6 Webb
    7 Greene
    8 O’Day
    9 Dayton
    10 Tomlin

    I’d also say that I would’ve listed them the same order before yesterday’s game, so the decision to go Tomlin, wasn’t my favorite. I was texting my brother that we should’ve gone Greene (to save Webb for multi-inning in games 3 or 4).

  22. @23 I find the “How great are you feeling after the win” or “How important has X’s pitching performance tonight been for the club” or “How great has Freddie been for your team this postseason” – type questions the most annoying. And since every player has gone through the same media training, ALL answers are the same. Unless you are Greinke… (who is annoyed to play in front of fans) or Melancon.

  23. Jonathan F could give a better answer, but if the games were truly a coin flip then I think the Braves would be around 81% to advance. So maybe the odds are a little lower, but not substantially lower than that.

  24. 27 That seems right. I’ll put odds on the rest of the games from my perspective

    Game 3 Urias vs Wright (LAD 55%)
    Game 4 Kershaw vs Wilson (LAD 65%)
    Game 5 May vs Ynoa (LAD 55%)
    Game 6 Buehler vs Fried (50/50)
    Game 7 Anderson vs Gonsolin (Atl 55%)

    I know May is better than Ynoa but if no one is going on short rest, these really may wind up bullpen games. If both go on short rest, you could move the game 6 and 7 matchups up and repeat game 3 for 7. I put those odds at an 85% ATL win but I may be doing it wrong

  25. The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past. Beautiful.

    Well done, Tfloyd. Hammer those bums, Braves.

  26. I’ve never really “experienced” postseason success in my life. I was born in ’88 so I have little recollection of the 1990s. I have vague memories of going to a game at Fulton County Stadium in 1995, but no memories of the Braves winning it all. My only World Series memory is Keith Lockhart flying out to end the 1999 World Series. My firmest Braves playoffs memories seem to start around 2002-2003. So this is quite fun and also quite nerve-wracking.

  27. O’Day carried a 1.10 ERA in the 2020 season with a 2.8 BB/9 and 12.1 K/9, and a WHIP of 0.8. Let’s call it a bad outing against a great Dodgers team and move on without losing faith that he’s a high leverage arm because that would be silly.

  28. With Bellinger on-deck w/ 2 outs, all I could think was: Just don’t let this guy bat… I’ve stayed up & watched enough West Coast games & seen him do way too much damage over the last few years. He’s definitely due.

    So, after Ozzie’s blunder… I’ve never been so happy to give up a triple.

    Oddly, when his smash didn’t go out of the park, I felt like we’d somehow hang on. The ending made perfect sense.

    Hey, maybe things really are different this year.

  29. That was an outrageously stupid question from DOB, but I don’t think he was even trying to challenge (as Timo mentions @21). I think he was trying to ask the standard somewhat silly leading question that the beat reporters always ask (“So…tough game, huh?” “So…that was fun, huh?” “So…almost blew the lead in the ninth, huh?”, etc.) and he fumbled the wording pretty badly, making no sense. So Melancon asked him to repeat the question because he rightly didn’t understand what DOB was talking about, causing DOB to have to come up with some sort of synopsis of his roundabout and senseless leading question and came up with Can you take anything positive from that ninth inning?

    Also, if a guy who’s been here forever gets that question from DOB (Freeman, Albies, Markakis, etc.), they’re probably nicer about it, see where DOB is trying to lead them and just go there anyway, ignoring the fact that DOB tripped over his shoelaces getting there. But Melancon was here for two months last year and has only communicated with DOB through a computer screen this year (and isn’t on these postgame interviews very much at all), so he doesn’t have the same relationship with him that the longer-tenured guys do.

  30. Need to get to Urias in the first inning!

    2020 ERA by inning (10 starts)
    1st – 9.00
    2nd – 1.86
    3rd – 2.70
    4th – 0.90
    5th – 3.68
    6th – 0.00

  31. @30 As someone that experienced the worst to first season and all of the playoff highs and lows over the next several years, I have found it quite rewarding that my children (23, 18, 16, 13) get to finally experience what I had described to them so many times. The edge of your seat, stressful and exciting times of what Braves baseball was and is once again. My kids have only been raised to love Atlanta Braves baseball (in Michigan) and I am so proud that they finally get to understand why I spoke so fondly of the 90’s/early 2000’s.

  32. Agreed about O’Day, but I do think that the 3-batter rule has ruined guys like O’Day for me mentally. I live in a perpetual state of fear that an O’Day is going to frisbee some lame fastball right into the wheelhouse of even the most average of lefties. I know O’Day has been quite good, however, so I’ll just watch with one eye closed.

    I like the Rays too, so between cardiac college football games and these CS’, this has been a crazy couple of weeks.


  33. I am 48, and I think this is the most fun Braves team I have ever routed for, and I give The Bringer of Rain all of the credit. He brought a swagger with him, but his confidence really allowed the guys to be themselves and this year you can really see it. I love how they really look like a TEAM.

  34. @40 I agree, and I think you’re right to make the connection to Donaldson. I do think this team changed fundamentally last year.

  35. @24,27,28: I’ve done a bunch of calculations, triple-checked my work, and it turns out that the Braves’ chances of winning the World Series are 100%. Needless to say this is a somewhat idiosyncratic probability model, but so far this postseason it has been entirely accurate.

    I am reminded, by the way, of the great Moses Malone prediction in 1983, which was off by only one game: “4-4-4.” I’m going “2-3-4-4”. I’m happy to be off by one, just like Malone.

  36. @43 To follow up on Jonathan, I took this chart from @28:

    Game 3 Urias vs Wright (LAD 55%)
    Game 4 Kershaw vs Wilson (LAD 65%)
    Game 5 May vs Ynoa (LAD 55%)
    Game 6 Buehler vs Fried (50/50)
    Game 7 Anderson vs Gonsolin (Atl 55%)

    and calculated out the following possibilities, starting with game 3 (LA is dodger win, A is braves win):
    A A
    A LA A
    A LA LA A
    A LA LA LA A
    LA A A
    …etc, using the probabilities above
    Basically, there’s definitely a more efficient way to do it, but I just brute-forced the calculations and got an Excel chart of how likely each possibility is, then I summed up the probabilities of all the Atlanta wins.
    End result is in fact that, according to the probability chart above, JonathanF has it precisely correct and the Braves have a 100% chance of winning the series. I know it might seem unexpected, but that’s what Excel says.

  37. @44 Looking at it from the opposite angle – using those same percentages, the Dodgers have only a 4.4% chance of winning the NLCS. Odds are longer than 20 to 1. And that’s even given that they’re favored in the the next three games.

    Close enough to 100 for me!

  38. @30 and 38–the past couple of weeks has brought back how fun October baseball can be. Those of us who followed the Atlanta Braves from the start had 25 years of zero postseason success (literally) before the magical 1991 run. Then in the 90’s we almost got used to these thrills. It’s true that the 90’s were overall a disappointment in that there was only the one series win. But they played and won a lot of October games, winning 5 NLCS’s and 5 division series.
    There’s nothing better than October baseball; let’s play more of it. If JonathanF’s science is correct, we’ve got about two more weeks of it.

  39. Ryan, it looks like you got your wish. Camargo gets the start.

    Tonight is a must win for the Dodgers. I think we have a better shot than in game 4 or 5

  40. @38

    Lucky you. Does you great credit, not an easy thing to do over so many years. To have your earlier teachings now fully understood and so shared between individuals and, at the same time, generations. Perfect subject matter though – baseball!

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