Looking back at the Atlanta Braves worst postseason loss
By Fred Owens
Bad rotation choice #2
Starting Dallas Keuchel on short rest looked like an awful idea from the time it became clear it would happen. On full rest in game one Keuchel didn’t fool anyone, why would he be better on short rest in game four?
Using a starting pitcher on short rest at the end of a 162 game season with 30+ starts, 200 or so innings, and the accumulated aches and pains that accompany such a season is at the very best a coin flip. Since 1995, teams are 70 and 82 when their starter pitches on three days rest or less. Since 2001 in elimination games, teams who start pitchers on show rest are 12 –19.
The Atlanta Braves structured the NLDS pitching without a way to avoid a short rest start. Instead of having Julio Teheran, Bryse Wilson, or Kyle Wright on the roster, they took Josh Tomlin as long man, then didn’t use him in that role.
A better idea might have gone like this: start a pitcher the Cardinals hadn’t seen in game four, even if he became an opener. Starting Teheran for three, then going to Sean Newcomb for two, Max Fried for two, then go to the short relievers to finish it up would at least have kept the Cardinals adjusting.
Bad rotation choice #3 and #4
Mike Foltynewicz pitched an absolute gem in game two and wasn’t the reason game five went south; mental mistakes and luck change the complexion of the game quickly.
The Cardinals expected a close game, and Kolten Wong bunted to give them a chance at one run. Then Paul Goldschmidt got an infield single (thanks to a diving save from, Swanson) and Foltynewicz struck out Marcel Ozuna, except McCann didn’t hold the ball.
If he holds the ball, there are two outs, and the ground ball to Freddie ends the inning because Ozuna isn’t standing in front of him, blocking his view. The bottom fell out after that, and maybe Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander pitches out of it, but we’ve seen innings explode like that in the past.
In 1991 Steve Avery gave up four runs on five hits after facing the first six batters. Foltynewicz gave up four runs on three hits, an error, and a walk after facing seven batters.
Games can go bad in a hurry, and in postseason play, a manager can’t wait when that happens, particularly in a win or go home game. Snitker left Foltynewicz out there too long, but I doubt anyone else would have moved faster.
The Atlanta Braves took Josh Tomlin as a long man and planned to start Max Fried in game four and use him as a one-inning reliever if necessary in game one. Once he appeared in relief in game two, that ship had sailed, and they needed a fall back plan, but they didn’t have one.
Getting caught short of a starter without an option is bad planning. Recalling a starter after injury, then using him in late-inning relief, is just wrong.
I didn’t want Julio to start, but given a choice between a pitcher who had a rough first start pitching again on short rest and a starter followed by a bullpen game, give me the rested starter. We got the bullpen game anyway, how much worse could Julio have been?