Home BUSINESS Braves-Dodgers Series Quickly Becomes Battle Of The Bullpens

Braves-Dodgers Series Quickly Becomes Battle Of The Bullpens

Braves-Dodgers Series Quickly Becomes Battle Of The Bullpens

Just a few innings into the opener of the 2021 National League Championship Series, it was obvious the best-of-seven series would become a battle of the bullpens.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off their last-inning, 2-1 win Thursday in a scintillating NL Division Series over the San Francisco Giants, even resorted to a “bullpen game,” using a series of relievers for short stints rather than starting three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

The pen men prevailed until the ninth, when Ozzie Albies hit a pop-fly single against Blake Treinen with one out, stole second, and scored on a clean single to left by Austin Riley, whose solo homer in the fourth had tied the game, 2-2.

Nobody could blame L.A. manager Dave Roberts for the bullpen strategy: in six previous postseason games this year, the Dodger pen had a 3-0 earned run average and 1.44 earned run average, plus an 0.68 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 30 strikeouts.

In the first game of their Division Series against the arch-rival Giants, who won a franchise-record 107 games to take the NL West title by one game over Los Angeles, the Dodgers became the first team in post-season history to have their relievers pitch at least eight innings with a dozen strikeouts but no walks.

Atlanta’s bullpen, much maligned during the season, has been even better. Braves relievers yielded two runs in 14 2/3 innings during their Division Series, won in four games against the Milwaukee Brewers.


Atlanta held Milwaukee scoreless for 22 consecutive innings, from the eighth inning of the opener through the third inning of Game 4. The big gun was set-up southpaw Tyler Matzek, who pitched in all four games against the Brewers, fanned six in 4 1/3 scoreless innings, and upped his career record to 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA in 11 postseason games.

Atlanta started the NLCS leading all clubs with a 1.54 team ERA, ahead of the second-best 1.87 mark of the Dodgers. The Braves also led in most strikeouts per nine innings (12.34) and the second-best ratio of strikeouts to walks (5.33).

The Braves blanked the Brewers twice, taking back-to-back 3-0 games after losing the opener, and eventually wrapping up the series with a 5-4 win.

Unlike the Dodgers, who started reliever Corey Knebel in the NLCS opener but lifted him for a pinch-hitter after he worked only an inning, the Braves got six innings from southpaw Max Fried, a starter who has not lost since July 28. He has won eight straight decisions, thanks to a 1.35 ERA over a 12-start stretch that started August 3.

In the playoff opener, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker followed his usual strategy of deploying Tyler Matzek in the seventh, Luke Jackson in the eighth, and Will Smith in the ninth. They all hung up zeroes, paving the way for a 3-2 Atlanta win in the bottom of the frame.

Earlier this season, the pen was as stable as the ground under Los Angeles. The Braves lost 13 games they were leading after the sixth inning, seven games they were leading after the seventh, and dropped 12 of 13 games in which they were tied after eight.

Things changed after the All-Star Game, however, when Atlanta ran off a 44-28 record to finish 88-73. Although the nine other teams to reach the postseason had better records, the Braves had the advantage of momentum, sweeping the second-place Phillies at home in the final week of the season to win the division for the fourth straight year by a comfortable margin.

Source: Forbes


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