Tuesday night at Truist Park is why the Atlanta Braves will win the World Series. Tuesday night at Truist Park is also why they won’t.
Bear with me. The Braves won one of those games they’ve become famous for winning this year. They came back from a 6-0 deficit against the Chicago Cubs to win 7-6 when Seiya Suzuki misjudged a fly ball to right center and two unearned runs crossed the plate.
And lest you think the Cubbies are merely playing out the string at the end of a long season, they are fighting for their playoff lives, trying to secure a wildcard spot and a win last night would have helped them enormously.
For the Braves to win in the gritty, determined fashion that they did, and that they’ve shown all season, says something about this team’s potential come the playoffs.
But the fact that Atlanta was down 6-0 also makes one wonder if it has the pitching to bring the Big Peach its second World Series crown in three years.
For the second time in two games, All-Star pitcher Bryce Elder threw a clunker. Just like last time, he lasted less than four innings. Also, in those same two starts he walked a combined nine batters. In each of those games, he walked three batters in a single inning.
Thanks to Suzuki’s error, it wasn’t enough to pin a loss on Atlanta last night. Come the playoffs it could easily be a different story.
Nor was manager Brian Snitker, despite the victory, in a mood to candy coat Elder’s effort.
“It was a little better than the last time,” he said, “but he was pretty much where he was last time when he left (the game).”
Let’s break down the Braves pitching, which seems to be breaking down physically at the worst of times. Max Fried, the supposed ace of the staff, is on the 15-day disabled list because of blisters on his throwing hand. Charlie Morton, the No. 3 man, has something wrong with his throwing hand. Spencer Strider, which leads the National League in wins with 19 and all of baseball in strikeouts with 274 has also struggled with home runs surrendered and ERA of late. In four of his last five starts, he’s given up 4, 3, 6 and 4 runs. Not terrible, but with an ERA of 3.86, he’s also added three-tenths of a run to his ERA in his last five starts.
Again, Strider has the potential to throw one of those gems he did in LA, when he struck out nine Dodgers in six innings inside Dodgers Stadium.
But he also seems capable of disappearing just long enough against good teams to give up an ill-timed homer in a playoff game.
And then there’s the bullpen, specifically closer Raisel Iglesias. After winning August Reliever of the Month honors in the National League, Iglesias promptly surrendered runs in four of his first five September appearances. In his last five appearances _ all one-inning efforts _ he’s given up two earned runs, nine hits and struck out six. They aren’t awful numbers but two games in a row in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago he surrendered a game-tying home run to Bryce Harper that forced extra innings and a homer to Trae Turner the next day that forced extra innings.
That’s not a resume to build confidence for October.
Of course, as was seen Tuesday night, that Braves offense is jaw-dropping. From everywhere. Reserve Kevin Pillar got the Power Party started with a solo home run. RBIs from Matt Olson and Marcel Ozuna followed. Then, in the eighth, Ronald Acuna Jr. ripped his 41st homer of the year to right for a two-run blast that got the Bravos within 6-5. Then came Suzuki’s error to save them.
Said Pillar afterward, “We know what we’re capable of offensively. We just try to be a dangerous offense and compensate when the pitching is not on that day.
Maybe that’s all it will take. Just outscore everybody with an offense that almost defies description. After all, the Braves have scored 916 runs to date, the most in baseball by 35 runs over the Dodgers (881).
But the same team that broke the Braves’ hearts a year ago in the postseason seems poised to threaten this magical run. The Phillies have won 8 of their last 10, six in a row and appear to be coming together at the perfect time. Beware the team that gets hot late.
Said Snitker a couple of weeks ago, “(The Phillies) scare me as much as any team in the game, quite honestly, with that firepower they’ve got. If they’ve got a strike left, they’re dangerous.”
Especially if that strike comes against the beat-up Braves pitchers. This summer’s been a walk in the park. The postseason figures to be a wild and bumpy ride. Buckle up, Braves Country.