MILWAUKEE – The Braves and Brewers will play a best-of-five National League Division Series beginning Friday in Milwaukee.
Here are three questions about the Braves entering the series:
1. How will the offense approach the Brewers’ pitching?
Milwaukee has a dynamic pitching staff. The conversation begins with aces Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. It continues with Freddy Peralta and closer Josh Hader, considered the best in the business.
“It’s going to be a big challenge the next couple days, next five days,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. On Burnes, whom the Braves tagged for five runs on nine hits in July, Snitker added: “The stuff was really, really good. You watch video of him, and it’s even better than what I remembered.”
Few teams can outslug the Braves, whose 239 homers ranked third in the majors. The Braves will punish a bad pitch, which could easily swing a tight series. But there probably won’t be many mistakes from Milwaukee’s pitching staff. The Braves’ bats against the Brewers’ pitching headlines the series.
The Braves have proved they can win low-scoring games, too. They’ll likely need to do so in the coming days.
“It’s an even series where it’s not going to be high scoring, I don’t think,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “They haven’t really seen us and we haven’t seen them (the teams played only six head-to-head meetings this season). Something’s got to give. I think it’s just going to be a good series, I really do.”
2. Can Charlie Morton and Max Fried keep it going and match the Brewers’ aces?
If the Braves win the series, one can assume Morton and Fried were instrumental. Morton, the wily veteran with oodles of big-game experience, was set to start Game 1. Fried, whose 1.74 second-half ERA led the majors, was slated to follow him in Game 2. They’ll oppose Burnes and Woodruff.
While each of these pitchers had a tremendous regular season, there can always be hiccups in October. Look at what happened to Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in his team’s wild-card game, when the Red Sox knocked him out after two innings. Or Max Scherzer in the NL wild-card game, when he pitched only 4-1/3 innings in a low-scoring contest the Dodgers eventually won.
Playoff baseball is wonky. It’s weird. It’s hard to predict. And while oddities are inevitable, it’s difficult to envision a Braves’ path to the NL Championship Series that doesn’t include Morton and Fried pitching brilliantly. They’ll also need a strong outing from Ian Anderson, who’s set to start Game 3.
“When you put Charlie Morton as your Game 1 (starter), and you have Max Fried in Game 2, you feel real comfortable and confident going into that series,” Freeman said. “We have the right guys to match up against their guys, because we’re going against Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff and Freddy (Peralta). I think the pitching staff, the starters, it’s going to be a good match. But we feel pretty good about ourselves.”
3. What does the Braves’ experience mean?
A common talking point surrounding the Braves’ latest postseason bid is their experience. This is their fourth consecutive playoff berth. They pushed the champion Dodgers to seven games in the NL Championship Series last October. These Braves own MLB’s longest active run of division titles.
The Brewers also have postseason experience, though their roster has largely changed since their own run to the NLCS in 2018. The question: How much will experience actually aid the Braves in the coming days?
“We’ve been in that arena for four years,” Snitker said. “A game away from the World Series last year. It helps. It helps that there are a lot of unknowns that the players have uncovered. … And we talked about it last week, these guys haven’t known anything but playing meaningful games in September (leading into October), which is really good.
“As a group, they’re confident in what they’re getting ready to experience. There’s not as many unknowns. I feel really good about where our club is in that respect.”