The Atlanta Braves dropped Game 5 of the National League Championship Series 11-2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.
They still hold a 3-2 lead over the 2020 champs and will have two chances of earning one more win and advancing to the World Series.
To do that, they will need their pitching to silence the Dodgers’ potent bats.
Two of them, however, are crucial for the Braves’ chances over the weekend.
2. Tyler Matzek
Maybe he is not a household name yet, which is baffling, but Matzek has been an absolute workhorse for the Braves all year.
He finished the regular season with a 2.57 ERA in 69 games and 63 frames.
His 77 strikeouts and 1.22 WHIP are also proof that he can be dominant.
During the 2021 postseason, he has been even better, showing a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 frames, with 13 punchouts and a 0.96 WHIP.
Matzek has pitched in eight postseason games in 2021, allowing runs in only one of them: two against the Dodgers on Sunday.
Apart from that, he has been flawless.
Why is it so important that Matzek keeps stepping up and showing his best level? Because he is the best and most consistent reliever in the Braves’ bullpen.
Plain and simple, the Braves need him to pitch, and he will take the ball on Saturday unless starter Ian Anderson works on a complete game shutout.
He pitched in the first four games of the National League Championship Series and has had to endure the rigors of a long season.
I know Jeff Francour just said it on the broadcast, but it bears repeating, Tyler Matzek has pitched in every game this Post Season for the Braves (8). Plus 69 games during the regular season. All after the shortened COVID season. And he is at his best right now. Very impressive.
— Jerry Blevins (@jerryblevins) October 21, 2021
At this point, fatigue could start being a factor in the pitchers’ performance, but it’s crucial, for the Braves’ sake, that Matzek keeps dominating.
1. Ian Anderson
The person holding the keys to the Braves’ ticket to the World Series is Anderson.
Anderson will be the starter for Game 6, to be played on Saturday at Truist Park in Atlanta.
— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) October 22, 2021
If he manages to keep the Dodgers at bay for five or six innings, the Braves will have a strong chance of advancing to their first Fall Classic since 1999.
If he doesn’t, the Braves’ bullpen will be called upon and it could result on the unit being tired for a hypothetical Game 7.
That’s why it’s so important that Anderson can be at his best on Saturday: the future of the series for the Braves, when it comes to strategies and workloads, rests on his right arm.
Anderson has performed well in the 2021 postseason, with a 2.25 ERA in eight frames.
He also has eight strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP.
He had a fine 3.58 ERA in 128.1 regular-season innings, with 124 punchouts.
He has all the ability in the world, but at times, he is prone to command lapses that can hurt him and the Braves.
When he is at his best, though, Anderson can shut down any lineup, and that’s the version of himself that the Braves need to see on Saturday if they want to advance.