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Sport MLB playoffs 2019: Three takeaways from Cardinals' comeback Game 1 win over Braves

04:55  04 october  2019
04:55  04 october  2019 Source:   sportingnews.com

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The Cardinals are up 1-0 in the National League Division Series after a 7-6 victory over the Braves.

a close up of a man in a red uniform holding a baseball bat© Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

Atlanta led the game 3-1 in the eighth, but a string of actions from earlier in the game and an unfortunate injury leading up to the start of that fateful inning forced this contest out of control.

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman gave a valiant effort to tie the game in the night with a two-run homer and solo shot, respectively, but the deficit was too much to overcome in the final half-inning.

Now the Cardinals send Jack Flaherty to the mound for Game 2 on Friday and the Braves are chasing.

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MLB playoffs 2019: Three takeaways from Cardinals' comeback Game 1 win over Braves

Overmanaging costs Braves

The playoffs are all about getting pitchers out of the game too early rather than too late as well as matching up certain relievers with specific batters down the line. But the Braves simply overdid it in Game 1 and that's undeniable.

Now, it's not entirely their fault because setup man Chris Martin suffered an injury in the eighth inning forcing manager Brian Snitker to put in Luke Jackson, which eventually led to Atlanta blowing a 3-1 lead, but Jackson could have been avoided entirely had Snitker just backed off a bit.

It started with Keuchel. He was taken out after just 74 pitches when the Cardinals hadn't made much hard contact on him the entire game. The Braves then only used Darren O'Day for one batter and brought in Shane Greene to start the sixth. Atlanta was three pitchers in during the seventh inning and brought in starter Max Fried in relief. But then the Braves only left him in for one inning and then went to Martin.

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This one was simple — and obviously hindsight is 20-20 — but you have to trust Keuchel to keep going in that situation. He is a veteran who knows how to battle in the postseason and the Cardinals hadn't figured him out yet. Their one run came on an infield hit, stolen base and ground ball. Why take him out?

This is a game Snitker would like to have a do-over on, but it's too late. Now the Braves are down 1-0 in the series and it's all because he didn't trust his veteran lefty.

Everything changes in the playoffs

It's a cliché to say "everything gets turned up a notch in the playoffs" but it's also true. Nothing a player did in the regular season matters in the playoffs because adrenaline is running high, the pressure is increased and a lot of players' mental games change.

This was never more clear than in Game 1 of the NLDS. Just look at the first inning for the Cardinals:

  • Miles Mikolas walked 32 batters all season (1.3 per nine innings). He walked the first two batters of the game.
  • Yadier Molina's pop time this year was relatively mediocre for him at over 2 seconds. He caught Acuna stealing easily.
  • Kolten Wong made nine errors all year and posted 14 defensive runs saved above average, according to Baseball Reference. He made an error that allowed a run to score.

Then in the fifth inning for the Braves, Keuchel who didn't allow a stolen base all year long, forgot about Harrison Bader at second which resulted in a steal of third and led to the Cardinals' first run of the game on a Dexter Fowler groundout.

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We say all of this to remind you to forget what you saw in the regular season — everything is different now.

The Cardinals allowed Dallas Keuchel to nibble

There is a formula to beating Keuchel: make him throw the ball in the strike zone. If a team doesn't do that he will beat them every single time.

During the regular season, Keuchel threw a mere 33.6 percent of his pitches in the zone. The league average is around 45 percent. When teams let him work out of the zone that plays into his advantage. The Cardinals did just that routinely swinging at deliveries either just outside the zone or a good bit out which led to inning-ending double plays in both the third and fourth.

Keuchel tossed four scoreless innings to begin the game and allowed just one run in 4 2/3 innings pitched. Keuchel is a tough pitcher to crack because of the way he skirts the outside of the zone so it's hard to lay off of that stuff, but the Cardinals didn't do themselves any favors by swinging are far too many borderline pitches.

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This game was over with one out in the first inning.It's hard to call this a game though because the implication of that is two teams were on a level playing field.

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