We knew going into the playoffs that the Braves’ biggest strength was their pitching and it shone through tonight against the Dodgers. Starter Mike Minor held the Dodgers to one run over six and one-third innings of work on eight hits and a walk while striking out five. The Dodgers’ lone run against him came on a Hanley Ramirez RBI double in the first inning that staked the Dodgers to a 1-0 lead.
The Braves struck back in the second as Andrelton Simmons doubled to right field to score Evan Gattis, tying the game at one apiece. They would take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth following a Freddie Freeman lead-off double and a two-out RBI single by Chris Johnson.
The Dodgers appeared to be in prime position to at least tie the game in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with one out on two infield singles by Skip Schumaker and pinch-hitter Michael Young, but Carl Crawford sharply grounded back to reliever Luis Avilan, who fired to shortstop Andrelton Simmons to complete an inning-ending double play.
The Braves added two crucial insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, taking advantage of some overmanaging by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (which we will cover in upcoming posts). Rather than let right-handed reliever Chris Withrow pitch to the light-hitting left-handed hitter Jose Constanza, Mattingly opted to call on lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez. That prompted Fredi Gonzalez to pinch-hit for Constanza with Reed Johnson, which then allowed Mattingly to walk Johnson to reacquire the platoon advantage by allowing Rodriguez to face Jason Heyward. Heyward responded by driving a single up the middle, scoring two runs.
In the eighth inning, Braves reliever David Carpenter helped breathe new life into the Dodgers, walking Mark Ellis to lead off the inning, then surrendering a two-run home run that just barely got over the fence in the left field corner, bringing the score to 4-3. He calmed down, striking out two, then gave way to closer Craig Kimbrel attempting a four-out save. Kimbrel got Juan Uribe to ground out to end the eighth inning, then worked around two ninth inning walks to seal the 4-3 victory for the Braves.
With the series tied at 1-1, play will resume on Sunday in Los Angeles as Braves starter Julio Teheran will oppose Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.