2021 National League Division Series 2
|2021 National League Division Series|
88 - 73 in the NL
|3 - 1
95 - 67 in the NL
|1||Atlanta Braves 1 Milwaukee Brewers 2||October 8||Charlie Morton (0-1) Corbin Burnes (0-0)||4:35 pm|
|2||Atlanta Braves 3 Milwaukee Brewers 0||October 9||Max Fried (1-0) Brandon Woodruff (0-1)||5:05 pm|
|3||Milwaukee Brewers 0 Atlanta Braves 3||October 11||Freddy Peralta (0-0) Ian Anderson (1-0)||1:07 pm|
|4||Milwaukee Brewers 4 Atlanta Braves 5||October 12||Charlie Morton (0-1) Eric Lauer (0-0)||5:07 pm|
Game 1 @ American Family Park
|WP: Adrian Houser (1-0); LP: Charlie Morton; SV: Josh Hader (1)|
|Home Runs: MIL - Rowdy Tellez (1); ATL - Joc Pederson (1)|
- Attendance: 40,852
Game 1 played in Milwaukee was a low-scoring affair, with the only runs coming courtesy of a home run by each team. Luckily for the Brewers, their one big fly came with a runner on base, while Atlanta's was a solo shot, and that was the difference in the 2-1 win. Charlie Morton, a veteran with a ton of postseason experience, started for the Braves, facing Corbin Burnes, the Brewers' candidate for the Cy Young Award. Both hurlers would do very well.
There were no runs scored in the first six innings of the game as the pitchers were generally dominant. Generally, because Burnes was visibly nervous when he started the 1st inning, walking Atlanta's first two batters, Jorge Soler and Freddie Freeman, in succession. However, he induced Ozzie Albies to ground into a double play, but then showed more nerves by uncorking a wild pitch that placed Freeman on third base before he struck out Austin Riley. Burnes would settle down after that. There were no such issues for Morton, who struck out the side in the 1st. It took until the bottom of the 3rd for one of the teams to produce a hit, with Lorenzo Cain hitting a one-out single, but Burnes then grounded into a double play while attempting a sacrifice bunt. For Atlanta, the first hit off Burnes was a single by Eddie Rosario to lead off the 5th, but it too was immediately followed by a double play ball, this one by Travis d'Arnaud. Dansby Swanson then hit another single, but Morton was up next, and he grounded out to end the inning.
Burnes completed an outstanding outing with a 1-2-3 6th inning, then gave way to pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach who led off the bottom of the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk. Knowing this was going to be a low-scoring game, manager Craig Counsell immediately sent Jackie Bradley Jr. to run for his lumbering slugger, but the next three batters all flied out, so it would not have changed much if the barely mobile Vogelbach had been left in. Adrian Houser came in to pitch the 7th and he continued where Burnes had left off, inducing three straight ground balls to quickly dispose of the Braves. In the bottom of the inning, Morton hit the lead-off batter, Avisail Garcia, with a pitch to bring up Rowdy Tellez. The big left-hander finally opened the score by driving a ball beyond the center field wall with was only the third hit of the day for Milwaukee. That was the end for Morton, who gave way to Luke Jackson. Eduardo Escobar greeted him with a single, but - as the pattern had now been firmly established - the next batter, Omar Narvaez, grounded into a double play and there was no more scoring that inning.
The Brewers now had a 2-0 lead and needed to get six more outs. Houser got the first two of these quickly in the top of the 8th, striking out d'Arnaud and getting Swanson on a ground ball. Brian Snitker now made a move with the pitcher's spot due up, sending in pinch-hitter Joc Pederson. He connected for a homer to left-center field, cutting down the lead to 2-1. Next up was Soler, another power threat, but Counsell let Houser face him, and he grounded out to third to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Tyler Matzek retired the first two men he faced, including rookie Tyrone Taylor who was pinch-hitting for Houser, before allowing a single to Willy Adames and walking Christian Yelich. Garcia had a chance to extend the lead, but he struck out, meaning that the Brewers' closer, Josh Hader, would have no margin for error in the 9th. He got off on the wrong foot by walking Freeman, and then, after striking out Albies, allowing a single to Riley. Freeman could only advance to second, though, and Adam Duvall, the National League RBI leader, hit a tapper just in front of home plate. C Narvaez threw to second base to get Riley, and while the Brewers could not complete a double play and Freeman made it to third base, the Braves were down to their last out. Snitker decided to send in Orlando Arcia, who had started the season with the Brewers, to pinch hit for Eddie Rosario, but he could only hit a routine ground ball to 2B Kolten Wong, ending the game.
Game 2 @ American Family Park
|WP: Max Fried (1-0); LP: Brandon Woodruff (0-1); SV: Will Smith (1)|
|Home Runs: Austin Riley (1)|
- Attendance: 43,812
Game 2 was another low-scoring affair, but this time it was the Braves who came out on top, winning 3-0. It was another strong pitching match-up, with Max Fried facing off against Brandon Woodruff. With a lefty on the mound for the Braves, Craig Counsell tinkered with his line-up, removing yesterday's hero, Rowdy Tellez, as well as catcher Omar Narvaez, in order to load up on righthanded batters. It didn't really help, as Fried was dominant over his six innings, allowing just three hits, not walking anyone, and striking out nine opponents. For his part, Woodruff did not do too badly, but in the image of his season, when he went 9-10 in spite of a brilliant 2.56 ERA and 211 strikeouts, he ended up the loser while being credited with a quality start for his own six innings of work.
There was no scoring until the 3rd inning, when the Braves got the runs they needed when Jorge Soler hit a one-out double, then scored the first run on Freddie Freeman's single to right field. Ozzie Albies then followed by bouncing a ball against the top of the fence in right field for a double, and Freeman scored as well. Three batters, three hits, and Woodruff went back to being dominant after that uncharacteristic blip. For Fried, though, there was no hiccup. He continued to put up zeros, and in the 6th, the Braves added another run when Austin Riley connected with a pitch and sent it to deep center field for a solo homer. In between Albies' 3rd-inning hit and that long ball, Woodruff had retired nine straight batters.
Both starting pitchers left after completing six innings, but the various relievers who succeeded them were also very good. Still, the Brewers had their chances, but they were unable to capitalize. In the bottom of the 7th, against Luke Jackson, Luis Urias hit a two-out single and Lorenzo Cain followed with a walk. Pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor represented the tying run as he faced Tyler Matzek, but he struck out swinging. In the 8th, pinch-hitter Jace Peterson drew a lead-off walk against Matzek, and Kolten Wong followed with a single, but the next three batters failed to cash either of them in as Willy Adames struck out, Eduardo Escobar hit a fly ball to right, and Avisail Garcia struck out as well. The in the 9th, with closer Will Smith on the mound, Milwaukee once again put the first two men on base as Christian Yelich drew a walk and Urias singled. But on the next pitch, Cain lined out to right, and then Luke Maile, in the game as a defensive substitute and not known for his bat, also swung at the first pitch, and he grounded to third, starting a game-ending double play. So the Brewers had six at-bats with the tying run at the plate in the final three innings, and went 0 for 6, with none of the batters even having a competitive at-bat. They would need to do better when in Atlanta in two days' time.
Game 3 @ Truist Park
|WP: Ian Anderson (1-0); LP: Adrian Houser (1-1); SV: Will Smith (2)|
|Home Runs: ATL - Joc Pederson (2)|
- Attendance: 41,479
Game 3 was another low-scoring affair, with only one swing of the bat making the difference. Once again, the Brewers' batters were unable to get a hit with a runner in scoring position, making it three full games without such a safety (their only two runs had come via a homer with a runner on first base). Not that Atlanta was swinging the bat much better, but they did get the one hit they needed in the 5th, even if a highly embarrassing mistake earlier in the game could have proved very costly. So once again, a good pitching match-up on paper translated into a well-pitched game on both sides, with Ian Anderson, who had been excellent in the 2020 Postseason, starting for Atlanta, against Freddy Peralta, who had appeared in the postseason before, but never as his team's starting pitcher.
Peralta ended up pitching only four innings, but they were good ones, with just 3 hits and a walk against 5 strikeouts, and he left not because he was in trouble, but because the Brewers had a rare chance to put some runs on the board, and used a pinch-hitter in his stead, but they ended up blowing the opportunity. Before that, though, it was the Braves who almost scored an early run. Austin Riley opened the 2nd inning with a single, followed by Adam Duvall who did the same. Eddie Rosario hit a fly ball to right for the first out, but Riley advanced to third. Next up was Travis d'Arnaud who lifted a ball to Christian Yelich in left field. The Brewers were conceding the run, but, inexplicably, Duvall took off for second base, and not only did Yelich's throw beat him to the bag, but he was tagged out milliseconds before Riley crossed the plate, so his run was erased. It was a huge baserunning mistake and could have ended up being very costly. In the 4th, Duvall hit a two-out triple when CF Lorenzo Cain ran at full speed into the fence while pursuing his drive to right-center; he caught the ball momentarily, but it fell out of his glove as he tumbled to the ground. It looked like Cain might have to leave the game, given how hard the contact had been, but he was able to get his wits back, and Rosario then struck out swinging.
The Brewers only had a pair of singles against Anderson through the first four innings, and stranded both runners, but they got something started in the 5th. Their first batter in the frame, Luis Urias, took first base when one of Anderson's pitches barely grazed his wrist. Omar Narvaez followed with a double, putting runners on second and third base with no one out. Cain was up next and he hit a hard grounder to the left side of the infield. SS Dansby Swanson made a diving stop, and had Urias been running on contact, he would have scored. Instead, he stayed put, and Swanson threw out Cain for the first out. Manager Craig Counsell then decided to send in Daniel Vogelbach to pinch-hit for Peralta, figuring such a scoring chance should not be wasted. But the strategy did not work as Vogelbach hit a soft grounder to third base; this time, Urias was running and he was caught in a rundown and easily tagged out, with Narvaez unable to leave second base. The last hope to score a run was Kolten Wong, but his hard line drive towards first base was snatched by Freddie Freeman and the inning ended with still no scoring. Adrian Houser now took the mound, but he got into immediate trouble, with singles by d'Arnaud and Swanson. Up next was Anderson, and Brian Snitker made the exact same move as Counsell had in the top of the inning, removing his starting pitcher who was pitching very well in favor of a pinch-hitter. The difference was that this time, the move worked. Sent up to hit was Joc Pederson, who had homered off Houser in the same role in the 8th inning of Game 1. And, lo and behold, he did it again, getting a hold of a high fastball and driving it deep to right field for a three-run homer. Given how anemic the Brewers offence had been since the start of the series, it was a killer blow, and indeed, both teams fell right back into their hitting torpor after that lightning bolt. In an interesting side note, the television picture clearly showed that Pederson was wielding a bat with the name of his former teammate with the Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo, on it; he fessed up after the game, saying he had indeed stolen the bat from Rizzo. He also wore some unusual jewelry for a baseball player: not the usual precious metal or bead collar, but a string of pearls. Given his hitting exploits, it was possible he would start a new fashion trend.
The Brewers did have an opportunity to claw back a run in the 7th, when Eduardo Escobar, pinch-hitting for 1B Rowdy Tellez against lefty Tyler Matzek, led off with a double to left. But Urias grounded to third and Manny Pina, pinch-hitting for C Omar Narvaez, flied out to center, and Escobar could not advance on either ball, after which Cain struck out to end the inning. In the 8th, pinch-hitter Jace Peterson drew a lead-off walk against Luke Jackson and went to third on a single by Willy Adames after one out, but Christian Yelich grounded into a double play. Then in the 9th, closer Will Smith hardly had to break a sweat, retiring the Brewers in order in recording his second save.
Game 4 @ Truist Park
|WP: Tyler Matzek (1-0); LP: Josh Hader (0-1); SV: Will Smith (3)|
|Home Runs: MIL - Rowdy Tellez (2); ATL - Freddie Freeman (1)|
- Attendance: 40,195
The Brewers finally managed to score some runs in Game 4, but both times they took the lead, the Braves came back immediately, before Freddie Freeman hit the decisive blow off closer Josh Hader in the 8th, sending Atlanta to the NLCS for the second straight year. On the mound, Brian Snitker came back with Game 1 starter Charlie Morton on short rest, while Craig Counsell asked Corbin Burnes if he would do the same; but Burnes opted out, explaining that he did not feel ready yet and would instead start Game 5 if needed. So Eric Lauer got the ball. The Braves got some bad news before the game, as RF and lead-off hitter Jorge Soler tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be placed on the injured list; he was replaced on the roster by Cristian Pache.
Morton started off on the wrong foot as he plunked lead-off man Kolten Wong and Willy Adames followed with a single deflected by SS Dansby Swanson. However, Christian Yelich, in a deep slump ever since his late-season injury back in 2019, struck out, and Avisail Garcia grounded out. That play did advance both runners 90 feet, but Rowdy Tellez struck out to leave them stranded. Swanson, taking Soler's spot as the lead-off batter, started the bottom of the inning with a double off Lauer, but he was also stranded as the next three men made outs. There were more baserunners stranded over the next few innings, but the scoring did not start until the 4th. Milwaukee got on the board first as Garcia led off with a single and Luis Urias drew a one-out walk. The Brewers finally managed a hit with a runner in scoring position, something they had been unable to do in the first three games, when Omar Narvaez hit a single up the middle, bringing home Garcia, with both runners advancing an extra base on the throw. Not only did Milwaukee lead, 1-0, but it was threatening a big inning, and Snitker replaced Morton with Jesse Chavez. Lorenzo Cain hit another single, making it 2-0. Lauer was up next, and he laid down a bunt, but Narvaez stayed at third base, with only Cain advancing to second. Chavez then loaded the bases by walking Wong, but Adames was unable to deliver the killer blow, as he struck out, leaving the sacks full.
Milwaukee's lead did not last long. Austin Riley started the bottom of the frame with a single but Adam Duvall made an out on a strange play, a pop-up behind the plate that bounced out of Narvaez's glove, but that was caught by a diving Urias just as it was about to touch the ground. In fact, the Braves were not convinced that the ball had not first touched the ground and asked for a video review, but just after they put on their headset for the now familiar ritual, the umpires were told by New York that this was not a reviewable play. For what it's worth, the television replay did seem to confirm that Urias had indeed prevented the ball from hitting the ground. That was just one out, though, and Joc Pederson, in the starting line-up because a lefty was starting, popped out to Tellez at first base, this time without any associated drama. Lauer could not get the third out, however. He walked Travis d'Arnaud then hit Guillermo Heredia with a pitch to load the bases. Orlando Arcia was summoned to pinch-hit for Chavez, at which point Counsell decided to pull out his starter Lauer, bringing in righthander Hunter Strickland. The fallout of this move was that Arcia was called back to the dugout and replaced by a much more dangerous hitter in Eddie Rosario, with Snitker playing the match-up game, something that Counsell should have anticipated. Rosario singled to center and tied the game, just like that.
Both teams had had to go to their bullpen early, and it was not their best pitchers who would now have to handle the next few innings, before the high-leverage relievers could come in. The Brewers immediately took advantage in the 5th as Yelich hit a lead-off single of Huascar Ynoa, and Tellez followed one out later with his second homer of the series, to right field, to give Milwaukee the lead again, 4-2. But this one did not last either, as with one out the new Brewers pitcher, rookie Aaron Ashby, allowed a single to Ozzie Albies and walked Riley. He then hit Duvall with a pitch to load the bases. Pederson played the hero again, hitting a ground ball to third and running like a man possessed, reaching first ahead of Wong's throw there, thus avoiding a potential inning-ending double play. Albies scored and Riley was on third base for d'Arnaud, who singled to right to tie the game once again. The score then stayed at 4-4 for the next two innings, although it took a rare relief outing by Game 2 starter Brandon Woodruff to extinguish a fire with runners on the corners and two out in the bottom of the 6th. Woodruff got Riley to ground out to 3B Urias, who was having himself quite a nice game on defence, to end the threat. Meanwhile the Brewers couldn't get anything started against a succession of Braves relievers, going down in order in the 6th, 7th and 8th. In the bottom of the 8th, Counsell removed Woodruff and inserted his closer, Josh Hader, while declining to make a double switch, even though the pitcher's spot would be up first in the top of the 9th. So not only was he bringing in Hader early, but he left himself vulnerable in the 9th, by having to either let him bat in order for him to go a second inning, or replace him and find someone else to pitch in a tight situation, when he had already used all of his better options. This was the first time in the series that the absence of set-up man Devin Williams, who had injured himself during the Brewers' celebration of their division title, really hurt: it should have by rights been his inning to pitch in a crucial situation. As it was, Hader failed in his job, allowing a two-out solo homer to Freeman; he had given up just three long balls all year, and none to a lefthander since September of 2020, so it's not something that could easily have been anticipated, but these sorts of things have a way of happening in postseason baseball.
So Atlanta led 5-4 going into the 9th, and its own pitching was lined up perfectly, with closer Will Smith coming out with a chance to record his third save of the series. The Brewers tried to make it interesting, as Eduardo Escobar, pinch-hitting for Hader, led off with a single to center. Wong then attempted to lay down a bunt, but botched it completely, instead popping the ball straight up, making it child's play for C d'Arnaud to grab it for the first out. Adames then went down swinging, his second strikeout in a key situation in this game, and their last hope, Yelich, struck out looking, not even attempting a swing as Smith make him look like a schoolboy by retiring him on three pitches. No need to ask which second-line pitcher Counsell would have needed to bring into the game had the Brewers tied the score: the game was over, and it was the Braves who were moving on.
- Associated Press: "Braves, Brewers spurred to playoffs by bold midseason deals", Yahoo! Sports, October 7, 2021. 
- Mark Bowman: "Freddie! Late HR sends Braves back to NLCS", mlb.com, October 13, 2021. 
- Adam McCalvy: "Ghosts of legends join Braves in Milwaukee", mlb.com, October 8, 2021. 
|Major League Baseball National League Division Series