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Brian Snitker on navigating a bullpen game, Atlanta’s big Game 4 win

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The Braves are one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1999

Championship Series - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

For the second straight season, the Atlanta Braves are one win away from reaching the World Series. The Braves bounced back considerably following their Game 3 defeat with a 9-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4. Brian Snitker knew at the start of the day that his team was looking at a bullpen game, what he didn’t realize was that he would be replacing his scheduled starter before the game even began.

Atlanta had penciled in Huascar Ynoa to start Game 4 but he was scratched due to shoulder soreness and was ultimately replaced on the roster by Dylan Lee. Ynoa will be ineligible for the World Series should the Braves advance. That left Jesse Chavez to start Game 4 and the coaching staff to piece things together for nine innings. The result was good for Atlanta in large part due to 3 1/3 inning performance by Drew Smyly that helped the team bridge the middle innings.

“Probably a little better. I think what Drew did was awesome, just stretching like he did,” Snitker said when asked about the bullpen game. “Honestly, I didn’t expect him to stay in that game that long. But, he was throwing good, situations were right, his stuff was crisp. Honestly, in the beginning I thought three’s great, two would be really good, and the biggest part too was Minter, the two innings he got for us was huge for us.”

Smyly allowed two hits and two runs over 3 1/3 innings in his first appearance this postseason. Both runs scored after he had already left the game. The offense put the Braves ahead early and that allowed Snitker the luxury of sticking with Smyly a little longer. A.J. Minter locked down the sixth and seventh innings allowing just one hit.

“A major league game is stressful if you got Charlie Morton or a bullpen game,” Snitker answered when asked about managing a bullpen game. “We sat down before the game and kind of looked at pockets and how we were going to use guys. All that sounds good at 4:30, and then at 6:30 and 7:00 it’s a totally different animal. We do prepare for it and so we had a pretty good idea what we were going to do going forward and I think that served us well today.”

The Braves needed just six pitchers to navigate the nine innings and they were able to stay away from Luke Jackson who had appeared in all seven postseason games before Wednesday night.

“We’re good. It was good to get Will out there. I was glad he got an inning today,” Snitker said on the shape of his bullpen for Game 5. “Luke’s good to go. So you got to mix, match, scramble just because of the time of year it is.”

So the Braves find themselves in a familiar position. They famously took a 3-1 lead against Los Angeles in the 2020 NLCS and then dropped the final three games of the series. However, it is a bit different this time around. The Dodgers have pitching questions of their own with a tired bullpen ahead of another scheduled bullpen game for Game 5. Max Fried will be on the mound for the Braves Thursday night with a chance to close things out. Additionally, games 6 and 7 will be back at Truist Park with Charlie Morton lurking as the Game 7 starter.

“It is hard. I mean, as we saw last year, winning a game is hard, especially a veteran team like this that we’re playing,” Snitker said. Number one, it’s hard to win here, number two, it’s hard to win a major league game, but I feel good about our club just from what we experienced last year and where these guys are.”

Snitker has stressed throughout the series how important of a learning experience the 2020 postseason run was to the Braves core.

Yeah, we’re more mature. I think we’re a more mature team,” Snitker said. “We got a bunch of young guys that have been through these wars before and now they’re through them again and I think that bodes well for us. I think the experiences they have had over the last three years in getting to this position has really matured this club.”