The Braves face a win-or-go-home Game 5 against the Cardinals Wednesday at SunTrust Park. Notes from the pregame:
• The Braves are going for their first NLDS Game 5 victory at home — they’re 0-3 in previous instances. The Braves are 4-6 all-time in winner-take-all games, with a 1-1 mark against the Cardinals.
If the Braves are going to advance, they’ll need to perform significantly better with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-9 on Monday and are 4-for-34 in the series.
The Braves have led the National League across the past two seasons with a .272 mark with runners in scoring position. In the past two postseasons, they’ve gone 6-for-49 (.122) in those situations.
• Manager Brian Snitker made a lineup change Wednesday, plugging in Adam Duvall for Matt Joyce in the outfield. Duvall has been among the Braves’ most productive players despite his bench role. He has three hits in seven at-bats, including a homer off Game 5 starter Jack Flaherty in Game 2.
“He’s hot,” Snitker said. “He's had some success off of Flaherty. Who knows if it will last. He's had some big hits for us. We're going to try it.”
Along the same lines, Snitker said there wasn’t thought to promoting shortstop Dansby Swanson in the order. Swanson has seven hits in 14 at-bats, including the game-tying run-scoring double in Game 3. He was slated eighth in the order Wednesday.
“It balances really good,” Snitker said. “He's been doing just fine where he's at. And just kind of like where he's at right now. I didn't want to mess with it.”
• Snitker mused about his young starters and the Braves’ ability to keep them fresh. Mike Soroka, who tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 3, and Max Fried have played crucial roles in the team’s bid to advance in the postseason.
“Every time you turn the TV on, it seemed like there was consensus that we were going to give these guys too many innings,” Snitker said. “I think we did a really good job of limiting stressful innings, getting them out of innings early, not pushing them too hard. They all made their starts. They did the side work.
“I'm a big believer that with those young starters like that, that you can break them down in between as much as you can on game day. And I think you've got to really monitor effort in between starts in the course of a long season until they figure out how to do that. I think that's a huge proponent of getting those guys through. And I think we did a really good job of, like I said, limiting and monitoring stressful innings more than anything, because a guy like Soroka, it's easy for him to come in after six innings and have 68 pitches. And it's kind of hard to justify taking him out.
“But one game’s 68th can be the different 68th the next game depending on how he gets there and things like that. I think we did a good job of him and Max a little here and there, just kind of getting them out of games to monitor the innings.”
• However the Braves’ postseason ends, Ronald Acuna has shined on the national scale. He’s been the team’s best player in the NLDS, even going 4-for-5 in the Game 4 loss (in which he didn’t score a run despite being on so often).
Acuna is 8-for-16 in the series, yet his homer was the only time he scored a run. The 21-year-old is having his break-out postseason series, which doesn’t surprise Snitker.
“I don’t know that I’m going to be surprised at what this kid’s capable of doing,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see that — he showed up last October also. And he's trumped last year's. And what he can do — and I said before, I mentioned earlier that somebody asked me at the Home Run Derby: Do you think he's going to be nervous? I said the last place that kid's nervous is out there on the baseball field. I'm not surprised by it. I think he's showing the world what he's capable of under these circumstances.”
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