Braves manager Brian Snitker plans to seek a balance this week between two playoff-related objectives: resting key players and chasing home-field advantage.
Not surprisingly, Snitker rested front-line players Sunday, the day after the Braves clinched the National League East championship. His lineup for the regular-season home finale included only two “everyday” players – first baseman Freddie Freeman and right fielder Nick Markakis – and Snitker said before the game he would remove both of them after “a short stint.”
Indeed, Freeman and Markakis were lifted to applause from the SunTrust Park crowd in the top of second inning after one at-bat each.
“This is a good opportunity to give guys two days (off),” Snitker said. The Braves are off Monday before opening their final road trip of the season Tuesday in New York against the Mets.
Beginning Tuesday, Snitker said the Braves’ lineup also will reflect the ongoing race for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think it is something we’re going to go out and chase,” he said. “We’re going to do the best we can to get it … within the scope of giving a guy or two a day off here and there the next week.”
Entering Sunday, the Braves had the NL’s second-best record, 3-1/2 games behind the Central-leading Chicago Cubs and one game ahead of the West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. As things currently stand, the Braves and Dodgers would meet in a best-of-five Division Series. The team with the better record would get home-field advantage, playing the first two games and potentially the fifth game at home.
Although the Braves have a better record on the road (45-30) than at home (42-38 entering Sunday), they consider home-field advantage a significant post-season asset.
“I think it’d be good to have the potential for three games here instead of two,” Snitker said.
Snitker said he plans to “pick and choose intermittently” which players to rest in particular games this week, adding that he doesn’t envision lineups as sparse on regulars as Sunday’s, which was pretty typical of what MLB teams customarily do on the day after clinching a division title.
The Braves started Charlie Culberson at shortstop, Adam Duvall in left field, Rio Ruiz at third base, Lane Adams in center field and Ryan Flaherty at second base. Tyler Flowers, who splits the starting catching role with Kurt Suzuki, started behind the plate.
In the second inning, Lucas Duda replaced Freeman at first base and Preston Tucker replaced Markakis in right field.
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