It took until yesterday afternoon—the fourth day of the postseason—before two starting pitchers completed six innings in the same game. Hours later, two other starting pitchers did it again. It was refreshing to see, not because of some old-timey, pitcher-wins-matter romanticism. But simply because it’s exciting to watch staff aces shove in games where one mistake can make all the difference.
That’s exactly what happened in the first game, between the Brewers and Braves at American Family Field in Milwaukee. As he’s done in every postseason since 2017, Atlanta’s Charlie Morton was dealing against the Brewers, who managed just three base runners (two singles, one walk) off the 37-year-old and struck out nine times over six innings. Then came the seventh. Morton plunked lead-off man Avisaíl García with a 1-2 fastball. The next batter and the latest member of Milwaukee’s Big Boy First Baseman Club, Rowdy Tellez, absolutely obliterated a 95.8-mph heater that caught way too much of the plate to break the scoreless tie.
Corbin Burnes, the nastiest starter in the game, shut out the Braves across six innings despite not even having his best stuff. Six strikeouts and three walks for the same guy who had 200 (!!!) more Ks than BBs this season? That’s like any Daniel Day-Lewis performance for which he gets nominated for an Oscar but doesn’t win. Sure, Burnes dazzled like always (no runs, two hits), but at least he didn’t wipe the floor with the competition.
Tellez’s dinger made the difference in Milwaukee’s 2–1 win in the first NLDS Game 1 of the day, but Atlanta made it interesting after the Brewers went to their bullpen. Playoff Joc Pederson (not to be confused with his underwhelming regular-season alter ego) pinch hit with two outs in the eighth and did what Playoff Joc Pederson does best: launched an opposite-field homer. In the ninth, the Braves put two men on against Josh Hader, the nastiest closer in the game.
Here’s where I want to give a shout out to Milwaukee catcher Omar Narváez, who in addition to several key blocks on spiked Haderballs, made a brilliant play for the inning’s second out. With the tying run on second and go-ahead one on first, slugger Adam Duvall hit a nubber in front of the plate. Narváez smartly snagged it with his bare hand and fired to second to nab Austin Riley. There was no chance of turning two on the play, so Narváez could’ve easily just gotten the out at first. But, by throwing to second and keeping the go-ahead runner out of scoring position, he assured that a single off Hader would only tie the game. It ended up not mattering, because the next batter, Orlando Arcia, grounded out to defensive whiz Kolten Wong, but it could have been the difference between a ninth-inning loss or a walk-off win.
Instead, the Brewers will host the Braves for Game 2 today (first pitch 5:07 p.m. ET) with a 1–0 series lead. Two more aces will be on the bump: righthander Brandon Woodruff (2.56 ERA, 5.7 WAR) for Milwaukee and lefthander Max Fried (3.04 ERA, 5.4 WAR) for Atlanta. Let’s do it again.
1. THE OPENER
The second pitchers duel of the night went down in the other NLDS Game 1. Logan Webb, whom many people have pointed out looks like the actor Jesse Plemons, silenced the Dodgers over 7 2/3 innings. Walker Buehler, one of Los Angeles’s two Cy Young contenders, went 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on two homers.
Wait, did you ask who the heck is Logan Webb? That’s totally fair. He’s the first of two Guys You’d Never Heard of Before who baffled the defending champs last night.
But, as Stephanie Apstein writes in her excellent column from San Francisco’s 4–0 win at Oracle Park, it shouldn’t be surprising anymore that the Giants are beating the Dodgers with Old Guys, Guys You’d Never Heard of Before and Guys Who’ve Been Injured a Bunch. This is what they’ve done all year.
Read Stephanie’s entire story: This Is What the Giants Do
Missed one or both of the ALDS games from last night? We’ve got you covered.
Why the Astros Are So Dangerous in the Postseason by Tom Verducci
Carlos Correa's clutch double off Craig Kimbrel is the biggest of many reminders of why Houston succeeds in October.
J.D. Martinez Provides Red Sox Desperately Needed Spark by Emma Baccellieri
Things looked bleak when he got hurt Sunday and missed the first two playoff games. Now, he's back. And so is Boston.
Didn’t get a chance to read yesterday morning’s Daily Cover story on Kris Bryant? You should definitely do that!
Inside Kris Bryant’s Journey From the Cubs to San Francisco by Stephanie Apstein
The public sees him as a cerulean-eyed Express model and perennial All-Star who led the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. He is also a father who has endured on-field struggles, a crisis of confidence and a devastating personal loss.
3. WORTH NOTING from Tom Verducci
Alex Bregman is similar to Dustin Pedroia: With his pull swing, he was drafted by the right team. Like Pedroia taking aim all those years at the Green Monster in Fenway, Bregman has prospered from peppering the Crawford boxes at Minute Maid Park.
Check out his career offensive numbers at Minute Maid Park by direction:
But keep this in mind: in what AL ballpark does he have his highest career average? That’s Guaranteed Rate Field, site of ALDS Game 3 on Sunday. Bregman has a career slash line of .414/.500/.586 in seven career games there.
4. WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The NLDS continues tonight with two games, while the ALDS is off with a travel day. First up is the aforementioned matchup between the Brewers and Braves—Woodruff vs. Fried. Then, it’s the second NLDS game between the Giants and Dodgers, which begins at 9:07 p.m. ET.
Something to pay attention to in the Milwaukee-Atlanta game: Hader needed 20 pitches to close out yesterday’s Brewers win. Only seven times this season did he throw that many pitches in an outing, and only once did he pitch the next day, which came in late August against the Nationals. He threw 24 pitches on Aug. 21, and then came in to face Juan Soto with two outs in the ninth on Aug. 22, but needed only five pitches to retire Soto and earn the save. Obviously, this is the postseason, so Craig Counsell probably will use Hader more frequently and for longer than he did in the regular season, if needed. But it’ll be interesting to see how he pitches if he’s asked to take the ball again in a tight game tonight. This is why Devin Williams’s absence with a fractured right hand is such a problem. The Brewers win because of their elite pitching staff. Take one of those studs away—especially the reigning NL Rookie of the Year whose Airbender changeup is the filthiest thing I’ve ever seen—and it becomes more difficult for Milwaukee to cover for its underwhelming offense.
5. THE CLOSER from Emma Baccellieri
After his bullpen took a beating on Friday, Rays skipper Kevin Cash said that he wasn’t exactly sure of his pitching plan for Game 3 on Sunday. (“Fortunately, we have 24 hours to talk through it.”) But if Tampa Bay decides to start Drew Rasmussen, as was previously projected, the team will be making history. Rasmussen is a rookie—like Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan and Game 2 starter Shane Baz—and the three had made just 38 combined career starts before this October. No club has ever turned to such an inexperienced trio of starters for the first three games of a playoff series.
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