Braves-Dodgers cat and mouse game inside the big NLCS moment


HOUSTON – Walt Wise recalled Tyler Matzek as a good hitter in 2014-15. Dave Roberts was reminiscing about the 2016 nightmare.

On Saturday night, a pivotal moment was playing in NLCS Game 6. The Braves were trying to dick the Dodgers, and Los Angeles manager Roberts was deciding whether or not to deck.

Situation: The Braves led 6, 4-2 games and led two series by three. He had Dansby Swanson at Truist Park after a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh. That brought in eighth-ranked hitter Travis D’Arnaud. George Soler went to the on-deck circle.

But it was: “We didn’t want to take the bat out of D’Arnaud’s hand, so we put Solar (on the deck) so he could pitch them,” said Braves bench coach Wise.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “It was a bluff. Matzek was going to hit.

It is not conventional for a hitter to walk intentionally without an open base. But Roberts said in a phone conversation that he was thinking about it. The key is to try to get Matzek out of the game. He was strong in the series and came in top of the seventh with a second and third and unbeaten tailings and beat Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr. and Mookie Betts.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts; Braves pitcher Tyler Matzek
AP; Getty Images

Roberts said he knew Jesse Chavez was warm and would prefer Matzek in the game. Despite Matzzek remaining in the game, he exerted enough energy to escape from seventh place, sitting and thinking he would face 2-3-4 hitters in the Dodgers lineup. Mostly, Roberts said, “I thought of Miguel Montero.”

In Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS at Wrigley Field, the score was tied 3-3 between the Dodgers and Cubs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Along with the second runner, Roberts ordered two of the next three hitters to deliberately load the bases and run two. His main driver was that he wanted to go to the pitcher’s place, and Cubs manager Joe Madden wanted to remove his best reporter, Arolides Chapman, by sending Madden Montero. Joe Blanton took the 0-2 lead, hanging up the slider and hitting a Montero Grand Slam that gave the Cubs 1 win.

MLB Playoffs 2021
Miguel Montero hits a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS.
Getty Images

“That was on my mind,” Roberts said. “I knew he was saving Solar from firing and I was thinking of Montero. I thought Solar would never get up, but I didn’t want to risk it.

And Soler was never going to get up. The Braves disliked their bat against Cory Niebel’s slider. And he wasn’t just going to remove Matzek.

Matzzek has not taken the at-bat since 2015 when Wise failed to become a starter at Colorado as his manager. But Wise still takes BP and says, “He was a really good hitting pitcher (.217 batting average). So we had some hope.

As it turned out, D’Arnaud was struck. Matzzek stayed in the game to deliver a dominant six-pitch eighth inning. The Braves won 4-2 to secure the NL pennant without ever exposing Matzek to that at-bat.



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