By Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
The Braves haven’t set their rotation for the best-of-three wild-card round next week, but it’s expected to be Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, in that order.
“As of right now, that’s the way it’s pointed,” manager Brian Snitker said Friday afternoon. “We haven’t named a rotation yet for the playoffs. We’ll meet over that probably Monday morning, Monday afternoon, and come up with a plan.”
It’s not exactly a well-kept secret. The Braves aren’t overflowing with options, and for the past two weeks, they’ve consistently stressed faith in that trio.
Fried pitched two days ago, leaving after one inning because of a tweaked ankle. The Braves expect their Cy Young contender will be good to go for Game 1, which will take place Wednesday at Truist Park. Ian Anderson, with six career starts under his belt, will follow Fried in what will be either a potential clinching game or a win-or-go-home contest.
“I feel really good about him starting that second game,” Snitker said after Anderson’s start Thursday. Anderson went 5-2/3 innings, allowing three unearned runs. He was hurt by a defense that committed four errors, but the 22-year-old again looked like a player mature beyond his years.
Wright was set for his last start Friday against the Red Sox, his final tune-up before potentially pitching a winner-take-all Game 3. Wright has looked improved since returning from a stint at the alternate training site. In his last start, he held the Mets to one hit over 6-1/3 scoreless innings.
Snitker reiterated confidence in Wright before Friday’s outing. And yes, the Braves have little choice but to place their faith in the unproven Anderson and Wright. But both have given them reason to believe recently.
When the regular season concludes Sunday, the Braves will know their first postseason opponent. That team will travel to Truist Park for a best-of-three Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. After two months of rotation changes, uncertainties and endless stress, the Braves believe they’ve found a reliable trio in Fried, Anderson and Wright.
Notes from Friday:
– The Braves’ magic number to clinch the National League’s No. 2 seed is one. They need one win or one Cubs’ loss in the final three games. If they’re the 2-seed, they’ll host the 7-seed next week. The race is close enough that the Braves might not know their opponent until after Sunday’s games.
– MVP candidate Freddie Freeman was out of the Braves’ starting lineup for a rest day. Austin Riley started at first base. Freeman has played in every game this season and was available as a pinch-hitter.
– The Braves haven’t announced their starter for Saturday. “We’ll just wait and see how today goes,” Snitker said, indicating it could be another bullpen game. Huascar Ynoa, who’s started five games, was available out of the bullpen Friday.
– On this weekend’s final series, Snitker said: “We want to go out and win the series again. That’s been our goal from the get-go. We have our pitching plan, which we’re afforded (by clinching). The options are really good, and there are guys who need to get work. I’m excited to see Kyle and how far he can take us tonight.”
– The Braves swept the Red Sox in Boston, outscoring them 23-11, earlier this season. Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall provided back-to-back three-homer games, which was one of many memorable offensive sequences for this Braves team.
Entering Friday, the Braves led MLB with 337 runs scored. They haven’t led the National League since 2003, when they scored 907 runs, and haven’t paced MLB in that area since 1973 (799).
– Boston enters the series with a 22-35 record, third worst in MLB. The Red Sox have already lost out on the Kumar Rocker sweepstakes, however. The Pirates are one game worse (or better?) than the Rangers in the “tankathon” for the No. 1 pick, which is expected to be the highly regarded Rocker, a Vanderbilt right-hander who played at North Oconee High.
– For those who like random stats and occurrences: This is only the second time the Braves will finish the regular season against an American League club. They ended the 2016 season – in the final series at Turner Field – by taking two of three from the Tigers. Under the original 2020 schedule, the Braves also would’ve finished the regular season against an AL foe, hosting the Astros for three.