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Keuchel allows 2 HRs in last start before NLDS

Braves will choose between veteran lefty, Foltynewicz for Game 1 start
@mlbbowman
September 28, 2019

NEW YORK -- Dallas Keuchel has the postseason experience desired when selecting a Game 1 starter. But before setting their National League Division Series rotation, the Braves must assess whether the former American League Cy Young Award winner is indeed their best option to start the postseason opener. Keuchel added

NEW YORK -- Dallas Keuchel has the postseason experience desired when selecting a Game 1 starter. But before setting their National League Division Series rotation, the Braves must assess whether the former American League Cy Young Award winner is indeed their best option to start the postseason opener.

Keuchel added some intrigue to the debate when he allowed a pair of homers in a 4-2 loss to the Mets on Friday night at Citi Field. The loss ended the Braves’ bid for a 100-win season. But the focus on this weekend centers on how to best build the roster and rotation for the NLDS, which begins on Thursday.

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“[The rotation] can line up however we want it with the way we’re working it this weekend,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “[The front office] is looking at matchup numbers and all of that. We’re not set with how we’re going to go yet.”

When the Braves adjusted their rotation to have Keuchel, Mike Foltynewicz and Mike Soroka serve as their starters this weekend, they created the option to start them in this same order for the first three games of the NLDS. But they also left some flexibility that would allow for any combination, excluding Soroka starting Game 1 because he would not have sufficient rest.

The Braves will host the first two games of the NLDS against the to-be-determined NL Central winner. The Cardinals have a one-game lead over the second-place Brewers. If the two teams finish tied, they will play a game on Monday to determine which is the division winner and which earns a Wild Card berth.

Keuchel’s bid to cement a Game 1 start began to weaken when he allowed Pete Alonso’s solo homer during a 33-pitch first inning. After allowing Alonso to tie an MLB rookie record with 52 homers, the Braves lefty allowed another run in the third and then surrendered J.D. Davis’ two-run homer in the fourth.

“That’s still a good lineup over there,” Keuchel said. “They’re a quality team. I had my work cut out for me tonight. Just a few pitches I’d like to have back. Other than that, I felt pretty good. That’s really the main key, going in and feeling good.”

Two weeks ago, Keuchel possessed a strong case to be the Game 1 starter. The veteran sinkerballer allowed just one home run while posting a 0.97 ERA over a six-start stretch from Aug. 14-Sept. 11. But he has now allowed two home runs in two of his past three starts and he has produced a 6.19 ERA within this short stretch.

Still, Snitker certainly didn’t seem too concerned about these recent results. Three September starts (two occurred after the Braves clinched the NL East) will not necessarily trump the value the Braves place on the fact that Keuchel made nine postseason starts over the previous four seasons.

“After Sunday, we’re going to sit around for three days,” Snitker said. “We’re going to work out and practice. Anything you’ve got going, you could lose really easily. I think it’s like when you leave Spring Training. Whether it’s a good Spring Training or bad Spring Training, you go north, sit for a few days and anything can happen.”

Foltynewicz’s candidacy for a Game 1 start is rooted in the 1.19 ERA he has produced over his past six starts. Soroka has possessed one of MLB’s best ERAs for most of the season. He could start Game 2 on regular rest or be pushed back to Game 3. If the latter option is chosen, the Braves would be leaning on the fact that Soroka has produced a 1.35 ERA in 15 road starts and a 4.14 ERA in 13 home starts.

“I’ve pitched in the Wild Card [Game],” Keuchel said. “I’ve pitched Game 1 and I’ve pitched Game 3. It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re pitching. The main key is getting out there and pitching in a meaningful game. This is what you play for starting on Thursday. We’re going to be ready to go. That’s when the fun starts.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.