PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves picked right-hander Bryce Elder to start Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.
Elder (12-4, 3.81 ERA) struggled down the stretch after pitching a career-high 174 2/3 innings in his first full season in the big leagues. But the Braves decided he was the best choice to face Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46).
Elder, who was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett during spring training, was a surprising success over the first half of the season after being recalled to Atlanta. He was chosen for the All-Star Game and helped the Braves deal with injuries to Kyle Wright and Max Fried.
Manager Brian Snitker said he made the decision because he liked Elder’s performance in intrasquad games the Braves played to stay sharp during their off week.
“I think we just kind of felt like after the way he threw at the intrasquad and with the layoff, that he was the guy,” Snitker said. “He’s been a starter for us all year. It was a big reason why we won the division. We liked what we saw.”
Elder posted a 5.11 ERA over 68 2/3 innings in 13 starts after the All-Star break, casting doubt on how he would be used in the postseason. He especially struggled in his last three appearances, giving up 13 earned runs, 19 hits and eight walks in 12 1/3 innings.
Elder made two starts against the Phillies during the regular season. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, on June 22. But he gave up four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, with a season-high five walks, on Sept. 20.
“I feel good about this, the decision that we made,” Snitker said. “There’s a guy that laid it on the line for you for however many starts all year, fought through some adversities, as they all do. So I’m happy that he’s having this opportunity.”
The Braves also considered starting 20-year-old AJ Smith-Shawver, their top prospect but a rookie who has made only five starts and six appearances in the big leagues.
Smith-Shawver will be an option out of the bullpen for Game 3.
The best-of-five series is tied at one win apiece, with Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia.