The red-hot pinch-hitting of Joc Pederson and sterling starting pitching have the Atlanta Braves within one win of returning to the National League Championship Series for the second straight season.
While Pederson, his trusty bat and pearl necklace won’t be hard to find, it is not immediately certain just which pitcher will take the mound on Tuesday as the Braves host the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 4 of the NL Division Series. Atlanta holds a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series.
Pederson belted a solo homer in a 2-1 loss in Game 1 and added a three-run shot Monday in Atlanta’s 3-0 win in Game 3, with both blasts coming against Adrian Houser.
“He’s been in these situations a lot, No. 1, I think,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Pederson, who is 3-for-3 with four RBIs in the series. “No. 2, that guy has no heartbeat at all. It’s like he’s on the playground.
“Playing against him in the postseason the last few years, you can tell that. He just slows things down and has his at-bat and is really focused.”
Braves starters Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson have combined to allow two runs on nine hits with 24 strikeouts in 17-plus innings over the first three games of this series. Collectively, that’s a 1.06 ERA.
“They’ve been awesome,” Snitker said of his pitching staff. “The starting pitching, we’ve had three really strong starts. And the bullpen has just been so good, and they have been for a long time.”
As for who starts Game 4?
“Later on this afternoon, we’ll kinda narrow it down,” Snitker said Monday. “We talked to a few guys about a few scenarios, and we’ll narrow it down later.”
Milwaukee has been on the business end of consecutive 3-0 setbacks to find itself on the cusp of elimination. All told, the Brewers have been blanked since Rowdy Tellez’s homer in the seventh inning of Game 1, and they are 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position for the series.
Leadoff hitter Kolten Wong (1-for-12, three strikeouts), Avisail Garcia (1-for-11, seven strikeouts) and Lorenzo Cain (1-for-9) have struggled mightily in the series.
“I thought we swung the bats better (Monday). Luck wasn’t on our side (Monday) with some balls in some key spots,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “Some good starting pitching is making it tough on us, and we have to catch a break, frankly.”
Counsell said the coaching staff would discuss a pitching plan for the Tuesday contest but announced Game 1 starter Corbin Burnes would not pitch on short rest. Left-hander Eric Lauer (7-5, 3.19 ERA regular season) likely is a strong candidate to start Tuesday.
Lauer last pitched on Oct. 1, albeit with less-than-stellar results. He allowed five runs on six hits — including two homers — in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 26-year-old also permitted two homers in a no-decision in his lone career appearance against Atlanta. He yielded three runs on four hits in three innings on May 14.
–Field Level Media