The Braves and Cardinals play Game 3 of the NLDS Sunday afternoon. Beforehand, Braves manager Brian Snitker and closer Mark Melancon were among those who spoke with reporters in St. Louis.
• Snitker still didn’t name a starter for Game 4. That will be determined by how Game 3 unfolds, with Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran the likely candidates.
The Braves have spoken with Keuchel about returning on short rest for the game and he’s “all in,” Snitker said. If the team brought back Keuchel (regardless of Sunday’s result), it’d still have Mike Foltynewicz, potentially Mike Soroka and Max Fried for a Game 5, if necessary.
“I think we're still going to have to see what we encounter (Sunday) before we make that decision,” Snitker said. “Like I say, we've got some different ways we can go. We've talked about it. But I think today it's still going to determine, probably be the determining factor on how we do go.”
• As for Sunday’s affair, Snitker made it clear every pitcher except Mike Foltynewicz is available if required. Mike Soroka, the team’s 22-year-old All-Star, got the starting nod against Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright.
Snitker added that depending on the situation, Foltynewicz could be available in Game 4. Soroka wouldn’t be after starting Game 3, but he could come out of the bullpen in a Game 5.
• Speaking of Soroka, when Melancon was with San Francisco, he thought the right-hander’s performance in California was the best outing he’d seen all season. Soroka allowed two hits over a career-high eight innings in a 4-1 win.
“When Soroka pitched in San Francisco, when I was there earlier in the year, even until I got traded here, that was the best performance that I had seen all year when he pitched against us,” Melancon said. “And I didn't really know of him too much prior to that and had never really seen him pitch too much. But just watching that game in San Francisco was, ‘wow, this guy — every pitch he's locating it.’ It's just so cerebral.”
Melancon joined the Braves on July 31, when the team acquired him alongside relievers Shane Greene and Chris Martin, completing a much-needed bullpen makeover. Melancon was 11 for 11 in saves during the regular season and rebounded from a poor Game 1 showing to notch a save in Game 2.
The three-time All-Star admitted he didn’t know just how good his new team was until he was in the room.
“I don’t think I realized how good this team was until I got over here,” he said. “And all three of us that came in the bullpen together, we all just kind of looked at each other and were laughing for the first two weeks, just, wow, this is impressive. And I've really been impressed, and I’ve said it before, but the young talent — and I’ve become just as impressed with the older guys, too, and how everybody’s meshed together. It's just a really good team/group. There are no outcasts. There's no selfishness. We’re all pulling together.”
• The Braves are shooting for their first lead in a postseason series since 2002, when they took a 2-1 lead on San Francisco. Sunday marked the 35th Game 3 in their postseason history (13-21).
And if you’re wondering: The Braves are 2-2 in series when they won Game 3 following a split. They’re 2-9 in series when they lose the third game to go down 2-1. They’ve lost five of their last six Game 3s, though they won last season, beating the Dodgers 6-5, to delay elimination.
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