ATLANTA -- Until his team clinches a playoff spot, manager Brian Snitker will not admit that he has thought about the interesting decision the club would need to make regarding the final spot in the postseason rotation.Though the Braves still have some work to do, Snitker can't avoid the reality
ATLANTA -- Until his team clinches a playoff spot, manager Brian Snitker will not admit that he has thought about the interesting decision the club would need to make regarding the final spot in the postseason rotation.
Though the Braves still have some work to do, Snitker can't avoid the reality that the remainder of the regular season will influence the construction of his potential playoff roster. Consequently, time is running out for Julio Teheran and Sean Newcomb to strengthen their respective bids.
As things stand, Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman and Anibal Sanchez appear to be the only locks for what would be a four-man rotation. The best-of-five National League Division Series schedule forces teams to either carry at least four starters or bring the Game 1 starter back on short rest for Game 4 if needed.
Whether Teheran, Newcomb or, possibly, one of the young prospects fills that final spot will be influenced by which opponent the Braves draw in the first round.
If the Braves were to draw the Dodgers, they would account for the fact Newcomb came within a strike of no-hitting Los Angeles on July 31. But this evaluation would likely lead to the realization things have changed for both parties over the past two months.
Newcomb has recorded a 6.52 ERA and issued 4.42 walks per nine innings over the eight starts that followed. The Dodgers produced a .713 OPS against left-handed pitchers through July 19 -- the day before Manny Machado made his Los Angeles debut. The addition of Machado and the return of Justin Turner, who came off the disabled list on Aug. 2, has benefited the Dodgers, who have a .828 OPS against lefties since Aug. 1.
So a matchup against the Dodgers wouldn't necessarily erase the possibility of filling the fourth rotation spot with righty Teheran, who has not faced Los Angeles this season. But the Braves' Opening Day starter did limit the Rockies to two earned runs over seven innings on Aug. 16. He also has a 2.96 ERA over four career starts at Coors Field.
Newcomb blanked the Rockies over six innings at Coors Field on April 8, but Colorado tagged him for seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on Aug. 17.
The location of the potential Game 4 would be influenced by whether the Braves gain home-field advantage by finishing with a better record than the NL West champ. They entered Tuesday with a half-game lead on the Dodgers, who had the same advantage over the Rockies.
Though his velocity has dipped recently and his cautious approach has added to a worrisome walk rate (4.35 walks per nine innings), Teheran has produced a 3.04 ERA over his past nine starts. He also has made a postseason start, in the 2013 NLDS. But he allowed six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings that night at Dodger Stadium, where he has a 7.33 ERA over five starts (including the playoff game).
A look at these numbers regarding the potential matchups does not necessarily provide any clarity regarding the decision Snitker and the Braves hope they will have to make very soon.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.