Max Fried Should Be Braves Postseason Closer
By: TJ Hartnett
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
After a travesty of a NLDS Game 1, the Atlanta Braves, behind a stellar outing from a flame-throwing Mike Foltynewicz, evened up the series with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now the Braves travel to enemy territory. They will need to win at least one of the two games to be played at Busch Stadium in order to keep their hopes alive of winning their first postseason series since 2002 and advancing to the National League Championship Series.
The Braves will be sending their ace and master of the road game Mike Soroka to the mound on Sunday to face off against the Cards’ veteran Adam Wainwright. That should make for a compelling match up, and one worth watching.
The hopes of Braves Country, however, rely less on Soroka’s pitching ability, that is likely to be on point, and more on whether or not he can pitch deep into the game.
The blowing of the 3-1 lead during Thursday’s Game 1 could arguably be attributed to Chris Martin or to Chris Martin’s oblique, which got hurt during his warm up pitches and forced him from the game in the 8th inning.
With that, the reliable Shane Greene/Martin/Mark Melancon triad was disrupted, and instead Brian Snitker brought in Luke Jackson, who promptly gave up a moonshot to Cards’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Then Jackson allowed two more baserunners before Melancon came in and allowed one to score, tying the game up.
It isn’t really Chris Martin’s fault. Jackson was going to be the scapegoat no matter what happened, because he’s Luke Jackson; but Melancon hasn’t been a treat to watch either. He also allowed the tying run to the plate on Friday’s Game 2 before recording the save.
It’s a small sample size, but in the postseason when it’s life or death, a small sample size is enough. It might be time to rethink the way the bullpen is being used going forward.
Martin, unfortunately, isn’t coming back. Even if he heals quickly, taking him off the NLDS roster because of an injury makes him ineligible to return for the rest of the series and for the NLCS as well.
Taking his place on the roster is Julio Teheran. Teheran carried the team on his back for much of the year and also stumbled so mightily in September that his lack of inclusion on the DS roster was a shame but not a shock.
Unfortunately, that gives Snitker two guys, Julio and Jackson, who didn’t enter October on a high note as option from the bullpen.
Melancon hasn’t looked like the kind of shutdown closer that World Series winners tend to employ.
Max Fried has, though. Fried has now made two scoreless one-inning appearances in two games, with two strikeouts to boot.
At this point it’s unlikely that he’ll start Game 4 (it might be Julio, it might be Keuchel on short rest), and instead he’ll continue being a weapon in relief. Even though it’s not the role he thrived in all season, I think it’s time to go all-in on this notion.
Even if he doesn’t necessarily close games out, Fried should be the guy, along with Greene, to get the high-leverage situations.
He’s got a power arm and a sharp curve that can strike batters out with ease, as he’s already shown.
He’s not one of the mercenary relievers that the Braves picked up at the trade deadline, but in these desperate times he’s looking like the guy who can save – no pun intended – the Braves postseason hopes.