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NLCS preview: Atlanta Braves pitching

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A preview of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff ahead of the NLCS.

Division Series - Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves - Game Four Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the 2021 National League Championship Series starting on Saturday, let’s look at the Dodgers opponents, the Atlanta Braves. First up, the arms.

Starting pitching

The Braves have three very good starting pitchers. They’re familiar with all three, as they’ve faced them in the postseason. Both Max Fried and Ian Anderson were on the Braves last season when the Dodgers faced them in the NLCS, with Charlie Morton being on the Rays when the Dodgers faced him in the World Series.

Just like LA, Atlanta currently has three starters, so Game 4 will be a bullpen game for them.

Max Fried

Regular season stats: 14-7, 3.04 ERA, 165.2 IP, 158 K, 41 BB, 3.31 FIP, 1.09 WHIP

Postseason stats: 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 9 K, 0 BB

Atlanta already announced that Max Fried will be getting the start for the Braves in Game 1. He was fantastic in his lone start against the Brewers in the NLDS. He tossed six scoreless innings and struck out nine while issuing zero walks.

This will be his third career start in the postseason against the Dodgers. He made two starts against them in the NLCS last season, winning one and losing one. In his two outings, he tossed 12 23 innings while allowing only four runs. He struck out 14 and issued six walks, and also allowed three home runs.

Charlie Morton

Regular season stats: 14-6, 3.34 ERA, 185.2 IP, 216 K, 58 BB, 3.18 FIP, 1.04 WHIP

Postseason stats: 9.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 14 K, 2 BB, 2.85 FIP, .200 AVG

Charlie Morton also has experience against the Dodgers in October, but not with the Braves. He faced LA in the World Series last year while with the Rays and as we all remember back in the 2017 World Series with the Astros.

He made two starts in the NLDS against the Brewers, but his second one was mainly to eat some innings for the bullpen. Morton went a combined 9 13 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. He struck out 14 and issued only two walks.

In his lone start last season against the Dodgers, Morton allowed five runs on seven hits in only 4 13 innings of work in Game 3 of the World Series. Back in 2017 with Houston, he allowed only two runs in 10 13 innings of action and had 11 strikeouts with only one walk.

Ian Anderson

Regular season stats: 9-5, 3.58 ERA, 128.1 IP, 124 K, 54 BB, 4.12 FIP, 1.23 WHIP

Postseason stats: 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 6 K, 0 BB

Ian Anderson tossed five scoreless innings against the Brewers. He allowed only three hits while striking out six and issuing zero walks.

He made two starts against the Dodgers last postseason. His first start was four innings and his second start was only three innings. LA certainly made him work, as he threw 158 pitches in only seven innings of action. Anderson allowed two runs on six hits and had seven strikeouts to go along with seven walks.


Bullpen

I won’t go over the entire Braves bullpen, but there are certainly some names to keep an eye on entering the series.

Will Smith

Regular season stats: 3-7, 3.44 ERA, 37 saves, 68 IP, 87 K, 28 BB, 4.17 FIP, 1.13 WHIP

Postseason stats: 3 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 K, 1 BB

Dodgers fans know Will Smith fairly well, largely because he was on the mound for the turning point in the NLCS last season. You know, when he allowed a home run to... Will Smith.

He was their closer in Atlanta this season and finished with a career-high 37 saves. He also led all of baseball with 60 games finished. Smith secured the save in all three Atlanta wins in the NLDS. All three outings were scoreless, as he averaged 13 pitches per outing.

Last year in the NLCS against the Dodgers, Smith appeared in three games. In 1.2 innings of work, he allowed three runs on two hits and issued three walks.

Luke Jackson

Regular season stats: 2-2, 1.98 ERA, 63.2 IP, 70 K, 29 BB, 3.66 FIP, 1.16 WHIP

Postseason stats: 3.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 2 BB, 3 H

Tyler Matzek

Regular season stats: 0-4, 2.57 ERA, 63 IP, 77 K, 37 BB, 3.20 FIP, 1.22 WHIP

Postseason stats: 4.1 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 3 H


2021 Bullpen stats (MLB rankings)

  • 9.01 SO/9 (18th)
  • 3.64 BB/9 (20th)
  • 1.10 HR/9 (20th)
  • 4.08 FIP (19th)
  • .238 OPP AVG (18th)
  • 1.32 WHIP (19th)
  • 3.97 ERA (10th)
  • 4.06 SIERA (19th)