The Atlanta Braves may have lost game five of the NLDS by a score of 13-1. However, the series was lost before game five ever started. Bad pitching decisions cost this team a NLCS appearance.
Ten straight postseason appearances without a series win. This is a thought the Braves can carry into the postseason. Atlanta should’ve won this series in game four and then a game five would have never taken place. However, the early postseason exit can be attributed to three particular pitching decisions made by Brian Snitker.
#1 – Not Starting Max Fried in ANY Game
Max Fried led the Atlanta Braves in wins with a record of 17-6. He also led the team in strikeouts with 173 K’s in 165.2 innings pitched. However, Brian Snitker decided to not start Fried in any game of the NLDS. Instead, he decided to start Dallas Keuchel for two games (one game on short rest) and Mike Foltynewicz for two games. Keuchel started in two games that the Braves would eventually lose and Foltynewicz was dominant in game two of the series, but didn’t even get two outs in game five.
Fried would come out of the bullpen in the series in four of the five games. He totaled four innings, while striking out six and giving up four runs (all four runs came in the 1st inning of game five). However, when a team doesn’t start their best starting pitcher (based on wins and strikeouts), one has to wonder what the coaching staff was thinking. Keuchel didn’t produce results in either game he started. Only one can imagine if Fried could’ve secured ONE victory for Atlanta in the five game series.
#2 – Not Pitching Mike Soroka Before Game 3
The Braves second best pitcher in terms of wins, Mike Soroka, didn’t start until game three. Soroka had a record of 13-4 in the season. Yet, Brian Snitker followed analytics too much and wanted to pitch Soroka on the road (where statistically he performed better). However, this decision came back to bite the Braves when it came to game five. Instead of having their #1 or #2 pitcher on the mound for a winner-take-all game, the Braves had to go with Foltynewicz against the Cardinals ace, Jack Flaherty. If Soroka had pitched in game one or two, Atlanta may have never been faced with a game five.
#3 – Removing Josh Tomlin in Game 4
Brian Snitker decided to remove Josh Tomlin in game four of the eighth inning when the Braves had a 4-3 lead. The only problem was: Tomlin was pitching lights out. The Braves were five outs away from a NLCS appearance when Snitker made the move. Tomlin had thrown a total of ten pitches. Seven of those pitches were strikes and he had retired four batters. However, again, Brian Snitker relied on analytics too much and decided to make a pitching change.
He removed Tomlin from the game for ANOTHER righty, Shane Greene. Greene would eventually allow the Cardinals to tie the game. The Braves would lose in the 10th inning, 5-4. If Snitker would’ve allowed Josh Tomlin to continue rolling through the Cardinals lineup, the Braves may have ended the series in St. Louis and be headed to the NLCS.
Bats Could’ve Been Better, but Pitching Decisions Lost NLDS
There is no arguing that the Braves bats were not hot in the NLDS. However, the pitching decisions plagued Atlanta the entire series. Leaving Teheran off the roster initially, bringing in Luke Jackson in game one, leaving Melancon in too long in game one, and pitching Keuchel on short rest are all examples of how bad pitching decisions ended the Braves in the postseason.