With the Atlanta Braves resting a handful of regulars, Marco Estrada carved through an Atlanta lineup appearing to be suffering from a division-clinching hangover.
A day after the Braves clinched and celebrated the National League East title, Atlanta had just two hits against Estrada. The right-hander struck out six over seven scoreless innings in Milwaukee’s 5-0 victory at Turner Field.
Continuing to make his case to be a part of next year’s starting rotation, Estrada improved to 3-0 with a 2.26 ERA in eight starts since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 7.
“They didn’t have all of their guys in there today, but I thought Marco threw the ball outstanding,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “His changeup was great, located his fastball well and threw some nice curveballs. When he has that changeup going he’s capable of throwing this against any lineup.”
Atlanta clinched the division crown with a 5-2 victory in Chicago on Sunday, leaving home field advantage throughout the playoffs as all it has to play for. As a result, the Braves sat Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla from Monday’s lineup.
Despite allowing just two hits, Estrada had to work out of a couple of jams to maintain the shutout. Brewers left fielder Khris Davis missed a fly ball on a dive with two outs in the second inning, allowing Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons to scamper to third. Estrada was able to get Joey Terdoslavich to ground out to short to strand the runner.
Estrada walked the first two hitters he faced in the fourth inning but responded by striking out the side to end the threat. In his final inning, Estrada was aided by a call Atlanta didn’t agree with. With a runner on first and two outs, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez ruled Paul Janish leaned into an Estrada pitch.
Instead of a hit by pitch, Janish was told to stay in the box and the pitch counted for a ball. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected by Hernandez after protesting the decision. Estrada eventually got Janish to pop out to end the inning.
“Oh, man his changeup,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said of what was the reason for Estrada’s success. “Any time a guy has a good changeup like that and a good, live fastball to go with it, it messes everybody up because it’s really hard to tell the difference between the two. He did a really nice job of making pitches in big situations.”
Estrada is closing in on setting the franchise record for lowest road batting average against. With one road start left, Estrada’s road batting average against sits at .178, much lower than the previous franchise low of .202 set by Shaun Marcum in 2011.
Led by home runs from Carlos Gomez, Lucroy and Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee’s offense was able to provide plenty of support. The Brewers, who have now shut out the Braves in three of four meetings this season, opened up the final week of the season with an all-around effort.
“You always want to finish strong,” Lucroy said. “Since we have had such a tough year I think it’s fitting that we go out fighting. It’s a good start to it. Hopefully we can continue it tomorrow.”