The Braves’ inevitable scramble for starters has begun

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Braves starter Kyle Wright discusses poor start in Game 3 of NLCS against Los Angeles Dodgers and how he expects to get past the experience.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Max Fried’s first postseason start came against the Reds, who hit .212 as a team, the lowest by any club since 1910. Ian Anderson’s first postseason start came the next day against those same Cincinnatians. Kyle Wright’s first postseason start was against the Marlins, who finished 21st among 30 MLB clubs in runs.

Using only Fried, Anderson and Wright, the Braves' starters yielded five earned runs — all by Fried, four against Miami in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, the fifth in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series — over this team first’s seven playoff games. Their collective ERA was 1.16. That was outrageous. (Anderson is the second pitcher to work his first three postseason starts of four innings or more without yielding a run. The first was Christy Mathewson in 1905.) It was also unsustainable.

Seeing the Dodgers for the first time, Wright managed two outs in Wednesday’s Game 3. He was pummeled for five hits, four for extra bases, and seven earned runs. The Braves' starters playoff ERA more than doubled to 2.75. (Still outstanding, but no longer outrageous.) This isn’t to suggest that the Braves are doomed. They cannot lose the series before Fried starts again, assuming that’s Game 6. If this goes seven, Anderson will be assured of another start, too.

ExploreAnatomy of Dodgers' 11-run first inning

The bridge to games 6 and 7 won’t be easy to negotiate. The Braves' Game 4 starter is Bryse Wilson. He has started seven big-league games over three seasons. His ERA is 5.91. He has never faced the Dodgers. He hasn’t worked in the postseason. This was why winning games 1 and 2 was such a huge deal. Wright wasn’t exactly a playoff given — neither was Anderson, but he seems special — and Wilson is a complete unknown.

Once beyond Fried and Anderson, this series was subject to sudden change. Allowing 11 runs in the first inning of Game 3 is as sudden as it gets. We can fault the Braves for not finding more starting pitching to get them through October, but who knew this October would be one without off-days, at least until the World Series? In other years, Fried could have started games 1 and 5 on full rest; the same for Anderson with games 2 and 6.

Braves NLCS Game 1 starter Max Fried (background) looks on as Game 3 starter Kyle Wright throws from the mound Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, during the team workouts ahead of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

(Lest we forget, the Braves started Dallas Keuchel and Mike Foltynewicz in games 4 and 5 of last year’s NLDS on three days' rest; the Braves won neither game, though they did hold a late lead in Game 4.)

Oh, and there’s this pesky fact: The Braves still lead the series. If they can steal Game 4 or 5, they’ll have Fried on full rest going for the clincher. If they lose Games 4 and 5, they’ll still have Fried and Anderson in line for Games 6 and 7. The NLCS isn’t over. Heck, it’s only just begun.n all that, the Braves have done pretty doggone well to be 7-1 in these playoffs. And it’s not as if Mike Clevinger, the apple of all eyes at the trade deadline, moved mountains for the Padres. He wasn’t healthy enough to work in Round 1. He lasted one inning — 26 pitches — in Round 2.

We could argue that, with this thin rotation, the Braves were living on borrowed October time. But that would be a bit harsh, and it would ignore reality: Every team in these playoffs is having to mix and match like mad. The Rays started Tyler Glasnow in their decisive Game 5 against the Yankees on two days' rest. The Padres were reduced to using Adrian Morejon, maker of six career starts, in their elimination game against L.A. He was gone after two innings. They lost 12-3.

Oh, and there’s this pesky fact: The Braves still lead the series. If they can steal game 4 or 5, they’ll have Fried on full rest going for the clincher. If they lose games 4 and 5, they’ll still have Fried and Anderson in line for games 6 and 7. The NLCS isn’t over. Heck, it’s only just begun.

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