Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider still uncertainties as postseason approaches

The Braves don’t yet have clarity regarding second baseman Ozzie Albies (fractured right pinkie) and starting pitcher Spencer Strider (left oblique strain) as the start of the postseason nears.

Albies was taking ground balls on the field at Truist Park before Friday’s game. He was wearing a new, smaller cast. Albies was injured Sept. 17 in his second contest back following an 81-game absence because of a foot fracture. It was a disappointing development for the Braves, who thought their All-Star infielder would give them a jolt heading into October.

“We won’t know anything until he gets out of (the cast),” manager Brian Snitker said. “I know they X-rayed it, and everything looked good. He’s stayed in shape the best he can, and he’s doing as much as he can.”

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Braves

Orlando Arcia started at second base in Friday’s pivotal series opener against the Mets. The Braves have turned to Arcia recently, giving scuffling rookie Vaughn Grissom a breather. Grissom, who last played Sept. 25, was hitting .163 over his past 14 games. Arcia has two hits – both home runs – over 11 at-bats across the past three games.

Strider, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched since Sept. 18. He hasn’t resumed throwing, Snitker said, as a precaution. Obliques are tricky injuries, so the Braves are treading carefully, hoping they’ll have their rookie strikeout-stacking right-hander back in the fold at some point during the postseason. Without Strider, the Braves’ rotation doesn’t look nearly as formidable behind Max Fried and Kyle Wright.

“He feels good, said he felt a lot better today than he did yesterday,” Snitker said. “But they’re going to wait until the very last minute, I think, before they start him throwing. I don’t think you’re going to know until he does that. He didn’t feel anything before the last time either.”

The Braves’ postseason run could begin Oct. 7, which is Game 1 of the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series (which would be against the Padres, Phillies or Brewers). If the Braves overtake the Mets and win the NL East, they wouldn’t begin play until their Division Series on Oct. 11. They would face the Cardinals or one of the previously mentioned three teams.

Notes:

- Another star rookie, outfielder Michael Harris, was batting third again Friday. He’s hit out of every lineup spot, logging most of his time as the No. 9 hitter (64 games). That won’t be the case anymore, as Harris has provided consistent offense. The Braves have moved him around trying to find where his skill set applies best.

“I like him coming up,” Snitker said. “It balances our lineup a little bit getting him up there more. What he’s done, what he’s shown he’s able to do, it lengthens our lineup even more when he’s up there.”

- Snitker trusts his club handling the pressure of this weekend, a series that likely determines the NL East winner and postseason seeding.

“They’re used to these situations,” he said. “They’re used to these stressful games. They’re used to having to win. They’ve been through pretty much everything you can experience I think. So that’s always good.”

- What’s at stake: If the Braves win the division, aside from the banner and glory that comes with a fifth consecutive East crown, they would secure the league’s No. 2 seed and avoid playing in the wild-card round, where they would be forced to use at least their top two starters to advance.

If the Braves are the wild-card team, they’d play that series at Truist Park next weekend before – if they win – advancing to face the Dodgers in the best-of-five NLDS, which would open in Los Angeles. So if the Braves are division champs, they potentially would avoid facing the top-seeded Dodgers until the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.

This Braves-Mets series is worth the hype. Its implications will have an effect on how the postseason unfolds.

“We’re both playing some pretty good ball right now,” Grissom said. “It’s just a matter of who makes the mistakes when it counts.”