The Atlanta Braves have evened up their National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers with a 3-0 victory at American Family Field on Saturday.
After being held to one run on four hits in Game 1, the Braves needed a jolt of energy to get back in the series. They haven't won a best-of-five series after dropping the first two games since the playoffs expanded in 1995.
Both pitching staffs were fantastic Friday. The Brewers eventually broke through on Rowdy Tellez's two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh that turned out to be the difference.
The stellar pitching continued in Game 2, as Max Fried was able to outduel Brandon Woodruff.
Fried only allowed three hits and struck out nine in six innings. Austin Riley provided the power with a solo homer. Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies also drove in runs for the Braves.
Woodruff was a hard-luck loser, giving up just three runs on five hits over six innings.
Notable Game Stats
- Max Fried (ATL): 6 IP, 3 H, 9 K (81 pitches)
- Austin Riley (ATL): 2-for-4, HR, RBI
- Freddie Freeman (ATL): 1-for-3, RBI, run scored
- Brandon Woodruff (MIL): 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 7 K (91 pitches)
- Willy Adames (MIL): 1-for-4, 2B, 3 K
Braves Stars Shine in Win
As much fun as it is to have an unexpected hero emerge in the playoffs, sometimes the simplest answer for a team with its back against the wall is to rely on its stars.
In the case of the Braves, that meant getting a big effort from Fried and Riley.
Fried has been Atlanta's best pitcher since the start of last season. He's posted a 2.84 ERA in 221.2 combined innings over the past two years. The southpaw stepped up in a big way Saturday to get the Braves back in the series.
The key to Fried's success was being able to get ahead in the count early and throw his curveball to put hitters away.
Jayson Stark @jaysonst
Who has more efficient innings than Max Fried?<br><br>He's been a 1-2-3 inning assembly line lately.<br><br>Here's his rate of 1-2-3 innings lately, including that 1-2-3 first inning today:<br><br>6 of last 8<br>13 of last 17<br>17 of last 24<br>20 of last 30<br><br>It feels like he never allows a rally.
Milwaukee didn't have a runner reach second base until Willy Adames' two-out double in the bottom of the sixth. The threat ended when Fried struck out Eduardo Escobar on a 96 mph fastball.
While Fried was taking care of business on the mound, the heart of Atlanta's order supplied the offense.
Freeman got the scoring started with an RBI single in the top of the third. The reigning NL MVP crossed the plate on Ozzie Albies' double that just missed clearing the fence in right field.
The final nail in the Brewers' coffin came on Riley's solo homer off Woodruff in the top of the sixth to make it a 3-0 ballgame.
The breakout 2021 season for Riley has been instrumental in Atlanta being able to maintain a high level of play in the wake of Ronald Acuna Jr. tearing his ACL on July 10.
Riley got better as the year went on, posting a .976 OPS and 19 homers after the All-Star break (he had a .826 OPS and 14 home runs in the first half). His second career playoff homer is the latest step in his emergence as a star in the big leagues.
Pitching is going to be the key for Atlanta's potential success in the playoffs, but its trio of stars in the lineup was able to break through against one of the NL's best starters to set the stage for a pivotal Game 3.
Quiet Offense Leaves Brewers Searching for Answers
Through the first two games of the series, Milwaukee's pitching staff has only given up four runs.
Woodruff didn't have his best outing of the season, but he pitched well enough to keep his team in the game.
The problem, as has been the case all season, is the Brewers' inability to score runs when Woodruff is on the mound.
The top four hitters in Milwaukee's lineup have combined to go 4-for-30 through two games against the Braves. The Brewers' best chance to get on the board came in the final two innings.
Braves reliever Tyler Matzek walked Jace Peterson and gave up a bloop single to Kolten Wong to start the bottom of the eighth. Adames, who was the Brewers' best hitter after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on May 21, struck out for the first out.
Matzek got Escobar to fly out to right and Avisail Garcia to strike out to end the rally with no runs allowed.
After the Brewers once again put their first two runners on with no outs in the ninth, Braves closer Will Smith escaped trouble by getting Lorenzo Cain to fly out and Luke Maile to ground into a double play to end the game.
Milwaukee's lack of runs through two playoff games doesn't come as a total surprise. Offense wasn't a strength for the NL Central champs in the regular season.
The Brewers ranked last among all playoff teams in batting average (.233) and slugging percentage (.396). Their .317 on-base percentage was only better than the St. Louis Cardinals (.313) among the 10 postseason clubs.
Adames and Tellez are the only two Milwaukee hitters who have an extra-base hit in 18 innings against the Braves.
If that trend continues, the Brewers' hopes for a long postseason run will be dashed.
The series will move to Truist Park for Game 3 on Monday at 1:07 p.m. ET. The Brewers have yet to announce their starting pitcher. The Braves will send Ian Anderson (3.58 ERA in the regular season) to the mound.