NEW YORK -- While Braves manager Brian Snitker would like to secure home-field advantage for next week's National League Division Series, he understands the value of taking time this week to audition some of his players like Touki Toussaint, who continues to be an intriguing option for the last available
NEW YORK -- While Braves manager Brian Snitker would like to secure home-field advantage for next week's National League Division Series, he understands the value of taking time this week to audition some of his players like Touki Toussaint, who continues to be an intriguing option for the last available postseason rotation spot.
Toussaint at least extended his candidacy, as the young hurler made just one costly mistake in Tuesday night's 7-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field. His ability to keep the Braves within striking distance was rewarded when Ronald Acuna Jr.'s two-run single capped a decisive four-run seventh.
"He's absolutely done enough to be in the equations and the talks as we go forward," Snitker said "The next few days, we'll be discussing all that. But he's pitched well enough to be considered."
With their sixth straight win, the Braves (89-68) moved within two games of the Cubs' NL-leading record (91-66) and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers, who are battling the Rockies for the NL West title, for home-field advantage in the NLDS.
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If the Braves finish with the NL's best record, they will face the Wild Card Game winner in the NLDS. But they are currently positioned to open the postseason at home against the NL West winner.
"[Home-field] advantage is our next goal," Snitker said. "We're going out to win every game we can to get it because I think it would be great if we could open at home."
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The first-round opponent could influence whether Toussaint, Julio Teheran or left-hander Sean Newcomb fill the last vacancy within the four-man rotation Atlanta would use during the best-of-five NLDS. Newcomb will audition against the Mets on Wednesday, and Teheran will have a chance to enhance his candidacy when he starts Thursday's series finale.
"It would be an honor and a blessing," Toussaint said. "If it happens, we'll see."
While Teheran might be considered the favorite for that last rotation spot, the fact Toussaint is a candidate is certainly remarkable. The 22-year-old right-hander began this season with Double-A Mississippi. He made five starts at the Triple-A level and then made the first of his five Major League starts on Aug. 13.
Still, there is something unique about the poised Toussaint, who ranks as baseball's 74th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline. He limited the Mets to two runs despite issuing five walks over five innings. The damage was limited to Michael Conforto's RBI double and Jay Bruce's run-scoring single in the third.
"He's a kid that has to get in the flow of the game," Snitker said. "But he slows the game down as well as any young kid I've ever seen. Those tight situations don't seem to bother him or get away from him. He walks the guys, but just keeps making big pitches. He keeps the game in check."
Toussaint has produced a 3.33 ERA through his first five starts. If he doesn't get a rotation spot, he could be utilized as a long reliever in the postseason. But he struggled in his one relief appearance against the Nationals on Sept. 15, and he has issued at least one walk during the first inning he has pitched in each of his past five appearances.
"If you're not letting them cross home plate, then that is a good thing," Snitker said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After Noah Syndergaard allowed just three hits over six scoreless, the Braves received their usual production from Johan Camargo, who doubled to begin the four-run seventh and singled to fuel the three-run eighth that was highlighted by Ozzie Albies' two-run homer off left-hander Jerry Blevins.
Albies' home run -- his fourth since the All-Star break -- broke a 2-for-31 skid. The switch-hitting second baseman has hit .163 with a .504 OPS against right-handers and .388 with a .973 OPS against left-handers in the second half. He earned his first All-Star selection this year while hitting .269 with a .810 OPS from the left side of the plate in the first half.
"He's an intelligent kid who realizes he needs to make adjustments, and he is [making them]," Snitker said.
The first-round matchup may influence how many relievers the Braves choose to carry during the NLDS. But regardless of the choice, it might be hard to justify giving a spot to Dan Winkler, who allowed two hits, including Dominic Smith's pinch-hit double, and issued a walk in the sixth. The right-hander has allowed 11 hits and nine runs (eight earned) over 4 1/3 innings this month.
While Winkler has faded out of the picture, the Braves have gained two strong candidates to place on the roster and quite possibly use as their setup man (Chad Sobotka) and closer (Arodys Vizcaino) during the playoffs.
Before Vizcaino closed Tuesday's win with a perfect ninth, Sobotka recorded two strikeouts during a scoreless eighth inning. The rookie right-hander has struck out six of 10 batters faced while not allowing a hit or issuing a walk in any of his past three appearances.
"I like what I see out of that kid, too," Snitker said. "He didn't do anything but put himself right in the thick of things either."
Newcomb will attempt to strengthen his bid for a postseason rotation spot when he faces the Mets on Wednesday night at Citi Field at 7:10 p.m. ET. The southpaw has a 7.44 ERA over his past seven starts, and the Braves skipped him during last weekend's series against the Phillies. But if there is a desire to use a left-handed starter during the NLDS, he'd get the nod. New York will counter with NL Cy Young Award favorite Jacob deGrom, who has gone winless while limiting the Braves to just four runs over 33 innings (five starts) this year.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.