These right-handers seem like the main options. Perhaps the decision depended on whether the Braves used Smith-Shawver out of the bullpen during Monday’s Game 2. (In a wild 5-4 victory, the Braves used neither Smith-Shawver nor Elder.)
Elder, an All-Star this year, faced the Phillies twice in the regular season. He surrendered four runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Phillies hit .182 against him with a .364 slugging percentage. The Phillies haven’t yet seen Smith-Shawver, which could strengthen his candidacy for the start.
“It’s all about just today,” Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz said on the field before Game 2. “That’s it. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You just can’t. If you’re looking ahead to that game, then we’re not concentrating fully on this, right? We need to win the game, and whoever it is we use to win the game, that’s what we’re gonna do. And then we’ll figure out what we’re gonna do on Wednesday. We haven’t really even had any discussions about it yet.”
The Game 3 plans are up in the air because of Charlie Morton’s sprained finger. He’s out for the NLDS. When Morton went on the injured list, Snitker said the Braves hoped the right-hander could return to pitch in the NLCS, if the Braves advance.
Of the options for Game 3, Kranitz said: “We got really good arms in the bullpen. We will have a couple of nice starting options – we should, possibly – for that Game 3. But if we don’t? Yeah, we do. We’ll be fine. Any time you’re faced with that, guys just go in and do their job. That’s just the bottom line. You hope you mix and match good enough to where you have that advantage. Either which way we go, whatever (Tuesday’s) game presents, then with the day off, it’s like, OK, we’ll figure it out, we’lll meet and then we’ll see what our best option is.”
During their World Series run two years ago, the Braves held multiple bullpen games. They configured each game to their liking.
They could do that for Game 3, which will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Maybe they use an opener and have Elder or Smith-Shawver take the bulk of the innings. Perhaps they do a bullpen game.
There are off days on Tuesday and Friday, which should allow the teams some flexibility with how they deploy their arms in these contests.
During the regular season, the Braves used 16 different starting pitchers, which tied a franchise record. But unlike the 2023 team, the other Braves clubs that did this didn’t finish with winning records.
The Braves will be confident with whoever starts Wednesday’s Game 3.
“I feel like all year, whoever we call up is ready to do a job or ready to step in at whatever moment,” Michael Harris II said on Monday. “We’re all confident in each other, and I guess we’re just excited to play behind whoever is on the mound.”