Braves win in thrilling fashion
The first of the two NLDS games on Sunday was an incredible one. For the majority of the afternoon, the pitching was in the spotlight. For St. Louis, Adam Wainwright turned the clock back about a decade, utterly shutting down the Braves lineup. Through his first seven innings of work he hadn’t allowed a run and gave up just three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. On the other side, the 22-year-old Mike Soroka was arguably even better than that, just with slightly worse results. The Cardinals were able to get a run across in the second on a bloop double, a ground ball to move the runner up and a sacrifice fly. Other than that, Soroka was flawless, allowing just the one run over seven innings on two hits, seven strikeouts, and no walks. At one point he had retired 15 straight Cardinals.
Wainwright struggled to get out of the eighth, though, but old friend Andrew Miller got the job done, leaving it all up to Carlos Martinez in the ninth. Josh Donaldson started things off with a double, and Billy Hamilton came on to run for him. I think that clearly got in Martinez’ head — Hamilton is the fastest player in baseball — and while Martinez got two strikeouts after the double Hamilton did steal third. St. Louis manager Mike Shildt then intentionally walked Brian McCann — more on that in a second — to put the go-ahead runner on for Dansby Swanson. The Braves shortstop smacked his second double of the game before Adam Duvall ripped a two-run single, and suddenly it was 3-1 Braves. Another old friend in Mark Melancon came on and closed things out in the ninth, giving Atlanta a 2-1 series lead.
Sox Spin: First of all, a couple of old friends in Miller and Melancon came up big in this game holding leads for their respective teams out of the bullpen. What I really want to talk about is the intentional walk, though. This isn’t exactly Red Sox related, but I think it speaks to how hard it is to find a manager who doesn’t make these frustrating decisions. A lot of people were frustrated with Alex Cora this year, and largely for good reason. I think it’s fair to say he didn’t have a good year. That said, you see a guy like Shildt intentionally walk a veteran who hasn’t even been an average hitter for a couple of years to get to the only guy in the Braves lineup who had made good contact in that game. More importantly, by doing so you put the go-ahead run on base for free. It was a dumb, dumb move and a reminder that everyone gets frustrated with their managers.
This was another good game, even if the final score makes things look very lopsided. Washington was actually in control for the first half of this Game Three. Going up against Hyun-Jin Ryu, they got a big two-run homer from Wild Card Game hero and up-and-coming star Juan Soto to give themselves a 2-0 lead right away in the bottom of the first. On the other side, old friend Aníbal Sánchez seemed like a curious choice to start over Max Scherzer, but he came through and then some. The former Red Sox prospect, who was sent to Miami (then Florida) as part of the Josh Beckett trade, was dealing. Sánchez was dominant through five innings, allowing just a solo homer to Max Muncy in the fifth and striking out nine in his five innings of work.
After Sánchez left, Patrick Corbin came in for a relief appearance with the Nationals holding a 2-1 lead. That would not last very long. Washington’s left-handed starter was absolutely shelled by the Dodgers. He did strike out two of the first three batters he faced, but after that he allowed a single, a double, a walk, a double and an intentional walk. Wander Suero would have to come in with two men on, and he promptly allowed a three-run homer himself. By the time the dust settled L.A. had scored seven times and it was an 8-2 lead. Joe Kelly tried to make things interesting in the bottom of the inning, just as we know he likes to do, but Washington only got two runs and the Dodgers eventually won 10-4. Los Angeles can finish this series on Monday.
Sox Spin: This game was sort of a reminder of just how well things went for the Red Sox in last year’s playoffs. That’s kind of obvious, of course, because teams don’t win World Series without things breaking their way in October. Still, this game highlighted two big parts of that. For one, their starts made it look easy “roving” between the rotation and bullpen. Patrick Corbin showed that it is not as easy as it may seem even for extremely talented, All-Star-caliber arms. Chris Cotillo did note that Boston avoided using their starters in one-run games last year, which certainly upped the pressure a bit for Corbin last night. The other part was just how good Joe Kelly was in 2018. Granted, he was pitching really well heading into the postseason, but we all know he’s always due for a downward turn at any given moment. That he stayed dominant throughout the postseason was a major key to that World Series.