ATLANTA (AP) — With their season on the line, the Atlanta Braves are throwing a changeup.
Trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 in their best-of-five NL Division Series, the Braves will start left-hander Sean Newcomb in Game 3 on Sunday night rather than Kevin Gausman. Newcomb nearly pitched a no-hitter against Los Angeles in July, and the Dodgers have beaten right-handers in the first two games of the series.
"We need to win," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said Saturday. "And not that Gausman doesn't give us that opportunity. We like how Newcomb matches up with them and the success that he's had against the Dodgers this year."
Snitker said he discussed the switch with general manager Alex Anthopoulos on the flight home after Atlanta's 3-0 loss Friday. They agreed to the move Saturday afternoon.
"Snit came up and talked to me on the plane before we took off, let me know that that was a possibility, so kind of get my mind right before I kind of went to bed," Newcomb said. "So I kind of had a forewarning. But excited, ready to go."
Rookie right-hander Walker Buehler is scheduled to start for the Dodgers. He allowed one hit in 6 2/3 scoreless innings Monday during a 5-2 win over Colorado in the NL West tiebreaker and finished 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA.
Atlanta has been outscored 9-0 in the first two games of the series, and the Dodgers have scored all their runs on four homers off Braves right-handers.
The 25-year-old Newcomb threw a career-high 134 pitches when he went 8 2/3 innings against Los Angeles in a 4-1 win on July 29 in Atlanta. Chris Taylor singled to left field on a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth for the Dodgers' first hit.
Newcomb was 12-9 with a 3.90 ERA in his first full big league season, but had a 5.68 ERA in 10 late-season starts after the near no-hitter. He tossed two scoreless innings Thursday in relief of Game 1 starter Mike Foltynewicz.
Gausman went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts for the Braves after he was acquired from Baltimore. He and every Atlanta pitcher other than Foltynewicz will be available out of the bullpen.
"We're going to let Newcomb get the thing off the ground," Snitker explained. "And I talked to Kevin, and he was like, 'Whatever we gotta do.'"
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts doesn't think his hitters will be surprised by Newcomb's stuff the way they were when they faced him for the first time and his fastball was dazzling.
"Obviously, their backs are against the wall, and they feel it's the best chance to give them a chance to win (Sunday). So, he's had success against us," Roberts said. "I just think (the near no-hitter) was one of those things that you just don't know a pitcher and you really don't know the life that it might have, and so it kind of snuck up on us."
Newcomb hopes to build off the success he's already had against Los Angeles.
"Yeah, definitely going to use that to my advantage," he said. "And they can use that to their advantage, too, because they've seen me throw a lot of pitches. So, it's going to go both ways. Go out there and use my strengths and attack them."
Atlanta has managed just nine hits in the series, and only two runners have reached third base.
Snitker hopes the return home from Los Angeles will wake up his team's bats.
He said he might move switch-hitting second baseman Ozzie Albies up to No. 2 in the lineup. But the manager is not anticipating any changes to his starting eight with the Braves on the brink of elimination.
"I think in this situation, we've got to be aggressive," he said. "We've got to take the safety off and start firing."
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