Derek Schiller – President of Business, The Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves 2018 season is over, but now is when the work begins! Derek Schiller, President of Business for The Atlanta Braves, discusses with John some of the plans the Braves have for the 2019 season.  Will there be new player acquisitions?  Is Liberty Media, the owner of the Braves, ready to pony up some major cash for prime talent?  Listen in and find out what the Braves have in store for the fans next year, and the goals they have set for themselves as a team and organization!

Baby Braves bow out in playoffs, but the future looks bright

ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Snitker endured a restless night after the final game of the season.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna, left, and Ozzie Albies watch from the dugout while the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a victory in Game 4 to win baseball’s National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

He was poring over what went wrong for the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs.

He might’ve been thinking about his own future, as well.

“I laid awake all night staring at the ceiling,” the Braves manager said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

After assembling some of baseball’s finest young talent and making a surprising return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Atlanta went down quietly in the postseason. The Baby Braves were shut out twice in Los Angeles before the high-powered Dodgers finished off the best-of-five series with a 6-2 victory in Game 4 on Monday.

The brief playoff appearance exposed a team that still has some glaring weaknesses . The pitching lacks a dominant starter, the lineup needs more power, and the bench wasn’t much help at all.

When Snitker looked over at the Dodgers, a star-filled team that earned its third straight trip to the NL Championship Series, he saw what the Braves must strive to become.

“We’re going to get there,” Snitker said, “but we’re not there yet.”

First up: The Braves must decide if their manager will be part of journey.

Snitker is not yet under contract for 2019, though there’s nothing to indicate he won’t return for his third full year at the helm — especially after a season that makes him one of the leading candidates for NL manager of the year.

The decision rests with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who held meetings Tuesday with Snitker and the coaching staff but wasn’t available to the media.

Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker (43) gives a sign from the dugout during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“Until something gets done … I understand that you’re never guaranteed tomorrow,” said Snitker, who turns 63 next week. “I don’t know. I know I’d like to (return). I enjoyed it. I love that group in there. I like being around ’em. That group in there is awesome. I’ve got a few more years in me.”

The manager expects a quick decision from Anthopoulos.

“He’s not going to string anything out,” Snitker said. “I think by the end of the week I will know something.”

Freddie Freeman gave Snitker a robust endorsement.

“I’d love to have him back,” the slugging first baseman said. “He did a remarkable job. It’s really hard to handle 25 to 35 personalities, and he’s one of the best at it.”

After a massive rebuilding job and three straight 90-loss seasons, the Braves suddenly returned to prominence in large part because of a bountiful farm system led by Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and a seemingly endless supply of dynamic young pitchers.

The 20-year-old Acuna quickly stamped himself as a franchise player after coming up from the minors early in the season, flourishing in the leadoff spot while hitting .293 with 26 homers, 64 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Only 21, Albies tailed off badly in the second half but still batted .261 with 24 homers and 72 RBIs in his first full season in the big leagues. The lineup also included 23-year-old Johan Camargo, who had 19 homers and 76 RBIs, and 24-year-old Dansby Swanson (who missed the playoffs because of a late-season injury).

Among the 20-something pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and made the All-Star Game for the first time. Sean Newcomb was a 12-game winner. Touki Toussaint, Max Fried and Mike Soroka showed plenty of potential in their limited opportunities. Top prospects Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright could be close to breaking through, as well.

Freeman (.309, 23 HRs, 98 RBIs) anchored the middle of the batting order along with another veteran, right fielder Nick Markakis (.297, 14, 93). Center fielder Ender Inciarte and catcher Kurt Suzuki also made key contributions.

“It wasn’t one guy one night and the same guy the next night,” Foltynewicz said. “It was really a team thing the whole year. It was really fun to watch.”

Markakis, who turns 35 next month, is set to become a free agent and may have played his last game for the Braves. Anthopoulos will likely be seeking a player who can bring more power to the middle of the lineup — a shortfall that was really exposed in the series against the Dodgers.

Los Angeles outscored the Braves 20-8, with eight homers producing for 14 of those runs. Atlanta was held to a pair of long balls, including Acuna’s grand slam in Game 3 that accounted for half of his team’s run production.

“We’re not a finished product by any stretch,” Snitker said.

Despite losing its ninth straight postseason series — a streak that dates back to 2001 and is eclipsed only by the Chicago Cubs dropping 10 in a row — just making the playoffs was a big accomplishment for such a youthful team. When Freeman struck out for the final out of the year, the crowd at SunTrust Park gave the Braves a standing ovation.

“It was an incredible experience,” Acuna said. “I definitely had a lot of fun.”

It looks like the fun is only beginning.

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More AP baseball coverage: HERE.

Machado, Dodgers finish off Braves in NLDS with 6-2 win

ATLANTA (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers went through all the expected motions after winning a playoff series.

Atlanta Braves’ Johan Camargo sits in the dugout alone, the last to leave, while watching the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a victory in Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

They broke out T-shirts and caps. They posed for pictures in the middle of SunTrust Park. They doused each other with beer in the clubhouse.

Then, just like that, their focus turned to bigger goals ahead.

For a power-packed team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1988, nothing less will do.

“We all know that there’s a lot more work to be done,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after his team finished off the Atlanta Braves with a 6-2 victory Monday in the NL Division Series. “We have eight more wins to go.”

Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese came through again in the postseason to lead the Dodgers into the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row. Los Angeles moved on to face the Brewers after taking out the Baby Braves 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

Game 1 is Friday night in Milwaukee, the Dodgers’ fourth championship series in six seasons.

“We prepared ourselves to get here,” Machado said, “and we’re not going to stop till we get what we want.”

Of course, this is just what the Dodgers had in mind when they bolstered their already power-packed lineup by acquiring the slugging shortstop — and free agent-to-be — from lowly Baltimore back in July.

Machado had only three hits in the series, but two of them were homers to go along with six RBIs. He got the Dodgers going in Game 4 with a run-scoring double in the first , and effectively wrapped up the series with his seventh-inning shot off rookie Chad Sobotka that cleared the Dodgers’ bullpen in left.

“There are so many expectations put on him,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of good players, but I can’t say enough about his focus and preparedness.”

Coming off a tense victory in Game 3, the Baby Braves grabbed the lead on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s two-run single in the fourth.

But Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP with St. Louis, countered with a pinch-hit single of his own in the sixth off Brad Brach , driving home Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig for a 3-2 lead.

“You just gotta be ready,” Freese said. “Whether you’re in high school, college, whatever, just be ready. You don’t have to be the best player in the world, you don’t have to make the most money, but you’re going to have a shot to do something cool. I learned that early in my career. I just try and stick with it.”

Ryan Madson earned the win by getting the final two outs in the fifth to escape a bases-loaded jam. The Braves’ final gasp came in the eighth, when Lucas Duda’s drive into the second deck in right drifted foul with two on against Kenta Maeda. Duda flied out to end the inning, and Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.

The Braves’ return to the postseason for the first time since 2013 yielded a familiar result.

Atlanta has lost nine straight playoff appearances, their last victory coming 17 long years ago against a team that is no longer in the National League. Since a sweep of Houston Astros in the 2001 NL Division Series, October has been a month of misery for the Braves.

Getting back to the playoffs ahead of schedule after a massive rebuild, Atlanta simply didn’t have the experience, depth or power to stick with the power-packed Dodgers. Los Angeles had a franchise-record 235 homers during the regular season and eight more against the Braves, accounting for 14 of its 20 runs.

Tinseltown has become Boomtown.

“They’re a very powerful team,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s what they’ve done all year is hit home runs. We’re not built like that yet.”

Los Angeles also benefited from some shaky Atlanta defense during its go-ahead inning. Puig kept the sixth going with a popup down the line off loser Jonny Venters that fell between second baseman Ozzie Albies and right fielder Nick Markakis .

Puig stole second without drawing a throw and came home when backup shortstop Charlie Culberson failed to knock down Freese’s sharp grounder up the middle. A super sub during the regular season, Culberson had to start in the playoffs because of an injury to regular Dansby Swanson.

“They played better baseball than we did,” Culberson said.

WILD STARTERS

Rich Hill of the Dodgers walked five in 4 1/3 innings, including a pair leading off the fifth that set up Suzuki’s two-run single. Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz walked four (one intentional) in four innings before he was lifted.

TOUGH OUT

Hill isn’t much of a hitter, but he sure made Foltynewicz work for an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth.

After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Hill fouled out five straight pitches.

Finally, Foltynewicz blew a 97 mph fastball by the .107 career hitter.

FIRST PITCH

The Braves brought out another Hall of Famer to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.

Former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox one-hopped his toss to the plate but still received a big ovation from the Atlanta crowd.

Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch before Game 3.

SMALLER CROWD

The announced crowd of 39,586 was nearly 3,000 smaller than the previous night’s record SunTrust Park turnout, perhaps because of a 4:30 p.m. start time that coincided with Atlanta’s notorious rush hour.

UP NEXT

The Dodgers beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the season series. Both teams won division titles with one-game playoff victories the day after the regular season.

Atlanta opens the 2019 season at Philadelphia on March 28.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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More AP MLB: HERE and TWITTER.

Braves return home needing win vs LA to extend NLDS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers head to Atlanta full of confidence after consecutive shutouts gave them a commanding 2-0 lead over the Braves in their National League Division Series.

Now the Braves must win the first postseason game in their new ballpark to extend their season. And they face some daunting history: only three times have teams that trailed 2-0 rallied to win a best-of-five playoff series under the 2-2-1 format.

Atlanta Braves base runner Ronald Acuna walks off the field after the final out in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP)

Atlanta was outscored 9-0 and outhit 10-9 in losing the first two games at Dodger Stadium, where Los Angeles slugged five homers.

Game 3 is Sunday night at SunTrust Park, with Kevin Gausman expected to take the mound for the Braves. He was 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts after Atlanta acquired him from Baltimore at the July 31 trade deadline in a six-player deal.

The Baby Braves ran into back-to-back dominant pitchers in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles. Atlanta didn’t advance a runner past second base in Game 1 and twice got runners to third in Game 2, but couldn’t score.

“We need to go out there and string some hits together, a couple big innings,” shortstop Charlie Culberson said.

They might be hard-pressed to do that against rookie Walker Buehler, who starts Game 3 for the Dodgers having drawn comparisons to ace Kershaw.

“Obviously, it’s a big spot,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said, “but he continues to kind of surpass all expectations.”

Buehler, a 24-year-old right-hander, last pitched on Monday, allowing one hit in 6 2/3 innings and striking out three in the NL West tiebreaker victory over the Rockies.

“I kind of look at it as like a baby step,” Buehler said about having pitched in a crucial regular-season Game 163. “Obviously, this will be my first playoff game. But 163 has got to be somewhere between a regular game and a playoff game. I’m just kind of going with the same game plan and try and stay under control.”

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker acknowledged he can’t do much more than juggle his lineup because the Braves’ bench is thin.

“I don’t know that moving guys around, giving them different looks in the lineup when you’re swinging the bats like we are is even the answer,” he said, “but we’ll try something a little different.”

The Braves closed the regular season with three losses in their last five games, managing just one run in those defeats.

“We’ve got to start scoring some runs and hopefully we can do that in front of our home crowd,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was 1 for 8 with two strikeouts in the first two games.

Braves leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. fared only slightly better, going 2 for 8 with two strikeouts. Center fielder Ender Inciarte went 2 for 6 with two strikeouts, while cleanup hitter Nick Markakis was 1 for 7 with two strikeouts in the two losses.

“This team’s better when we’ve had our backs against the wall,” Inciarte said. “We’ve shocked a lot of people already — we can do it again.”

The Braves are back in the postseason for the first time since 2013, having won 90 games in earning the NL East title earlier in their rebuild than most projected.

However, the Braves are 1-8 in playoff series when they lose Game 2. Their lone victory came in the 1996 NLCS when they lost to St. Louis and came back to take the series in seven games.

“We’ve still got chances,” Culberson said. “We just need to take a deep breath and go out there and try to have fun.”

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More AP MLB: HERE and TWITTER.

Ryu sharp, Dodgers hit 3 HRs, beat Braves 6-0 in NLDS opener

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers made a surprising and much dissected decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu over Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

Swell choice.

Atlanta Braves watch during the seventh inning of Game 1 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The South Korean left-hander pitched seven dominant innings and Los Angeles launched three home runs to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-0 on Thursday night.

Ryu delivered in his first postseason start since 2014. He allowed four singles — all with two outs — struck out eight and walked none.

“He was in control. There was a lot of soft contact,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was doing what he wanted to do. It was good to see, and we needed that one.”

The only slip Ryu made was when he mistook the second out of the fourth inning for the last out and started walking toward the dugout. He laughed upon realizing the gaffe.

The 31-year-old Ryu missed 3 1/2 months of the season with a groin strain and returned Aug. 15 to post a 1.88 ERA in 52 2/3 innings.

“When he came back we weren’t sure who we were going to get,” teammate Enrique Hernandez said. “It seemed like he didn’t miss a beat.”

Dodgers great Sandy Koufax was among those who gave Ryu a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout after his final pitch.

“I’m happy that I was able to keep my promise that I would go full-throttle from the get-go,” Ryu said through a translator.

Ryu even collected his first career postseason hit with a single in the fourth.

The Dodgers set franchise and National League records by hitting 235 homers during the regular season, and their tear continued with three more to begin their playoffs. The defending NL champions actually were outhit 6-5 by Atlanta, but the Braves only got singles.

“I don’t really feel like there’s anyone on this team that’s going up there trying to hit a home run,” said Max Muncy, who had a three-run shot with two outs in the second. “It’s just a result of us having a good approach and good at-bats. I feel like a lot of the home runs we’ve had have come off of long at-bats, working the counts and wearing the pitcher down.”

Game 2 in the best-of-five matchup is Friday at Dodger Stadium, with Kershaw starting for Los Angeles against Anibal Sanchez.

“A guy with his pedigree and his track record, we’re pretty excited to have him going tomorrow night,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said of Kershaw.

The Braves have lost eight straight series openers in the postseason. They haven’t won a Game 1 since 2001 when they went on to sweep Houston in the NLDS.

Rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. struck out twice and went 0 for 4 as the Baby Braves were blanked. This was Atlanta’s first playoff appearance since 2013, when they lost to the Dodgers in four games.

Joc Pederson’s leadoff shot in the bottom of the first rattled Mike Foltynewicz in his postseason debut.

Foltynewicz gave up four runs and three hits in two innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked two. He got out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the first by striking out Yasiel Puig.

“If you don’t have your fastball command, they’re going to spit on a lot of things, which they did tonight,” Foltynewicz said.

He found trouble again in the second.

With two outs, Foltynewicz hit Pederson and walked Justin Turner before Muncy sent a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center, making it 4-0.

“That three-run home run was big for all of us, including me,” Ryu said.

Hernandez hit a solo shot with two outs in the sixth off Brad Brach. Pinch-hitter David Freese added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Ryu allowed a two-out single to Freddie Freeman in the first.

After that, he retired 12 consecutive batters before a pair of two-out singles to Ender Inciarte and former Dodger Charlie Culberson in the fifth. Puig charged in on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s fly to right field to end the inning. The Braves didn’t advance a runner past second base in the game.

Ryu gave up another two-out single to Ozzie Albies in the seventh. With fans on their feet waving blue towels and the crowd of 50,947 chanting his name, Ryu got Inciarte on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“Typically we’re not a team that strikes out a lot, and I think that just the fastball command really kept us off-balance the whole night,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Relievers Caleb Ferguson, Alex Wood and Dylan Floro completed the shutout.

AT HOME

Ryu was 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA in nine starts at Dodger Stadium in the regular season. The Dodgers went 7-2 in those games. That’s the lowest ERA among pitchers with 50 or more innings at home, according to STATS.

UP NEXT

RHP Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.83 ERA) starts Game 2 for Atlanta. He is 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA in seven postseason starts. He last pitched in the playoffs in 2014 with Detroit. Kershaw (9-5, 2.73) goes for the Dodgers. The veteran ace is 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 24 postseason games. He gave up four homers in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS, the most allowed by a Dodgers pitcher in playoff history.

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More AP MLB HERE and TWITTER.

What Will the Braves’ NLDS Roster Look Like?

FILE PHOTO – Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) forces out Miami Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria (3) on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Miami. Suzuki was safe at first base.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Today, while Braves players enjoy a well deserved day off, the front office and coaching staff are hard at work trying to narrow down what the 25 man NLDS roster will look like. While it seems safe to assume they will carry 12 pitches (4 starters and 8 relievers), the club may still opt to carry a third catcher in Rene Rivera to add the ability to use either Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki off the bench, in the event that Dansby Swanson isn’t healthy enough to play. If Swanson can’t go, it would mean Charlie Culberson becomes the starting shortstop, thus weakening the depth on the bench.

As for who makes up the Atlanta bullpen, strong showings from both Touki Toussaint and Max Fried on the most recent road trip have bolstered their candidacy to give the team length from the pen. As for the final spot in the rotation, I’d say the last month has been enough for Julio Teheran to be the fourth starter.

A lot of tough decisions still need to be made, and again, health will prove to be a major factor. Along with Swanson, Lucas Duda has been bothered by a sore back of late. Arodys Vizcaino appears to have erased any concerns about his shoulder but the club still may be hesitant to use him on back to back days, thus meaning AJ Minter or Brad Brach could be called on for a save situation. Brian Snitker said the majority of Monday would be spent trying to go over multiple scenarios as far as the final spots go, and that it wouldn’t be a surprise if those final decisions weren’t made until Wednesday’s workout day on the road, meaning there may be guys who travel but don’t make the cut. There’s lots to keep an eye on over the next couple days, but most importantly, time to do the laundry, pay some bills and get ready to pack and head back on the road tomorrow afternoon!

@KevinMcAlpin has covered the Braves for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet since 2012.

Are the Braves Feeling “First Time Post-Season Jitters?”

When it comes to a team experiencing the postseason for the first time in five years, the question undoubtedly gets asked about how they’re handling the pressure. It’s only natural for an inexperienced club to start feeling the heat as the intensity of the games grows day by day. But this Braves team is not showing any signs of that. As a matter of fact, this group seems to be going the other way. It’s been a loose and even keel bunch all season. If you need any proof, Ronald Acuña was asked about that very topic before Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.

“I would say I’m having even more fun than before. With the excitement of the playoffs being around and moving on to the next round, I think it’s going to be even more fun” Acuña said through team translator Franco Garcia. When it comes to the energy he brings to the ballpark, he said Braves fans should expect that no matter how old he is. “I can assure you it will be for the rest of my career because that’s just the way I play the game.” If you needed any further proof that Acuña, and the rest of the young Braves are not getting caught up in the moment, here’s Example A:

NL East champ Braves drop finale, wait for NL West champ

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and the NL East champion Atlanta Braves are set to open the playoffs on the road.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (45) throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

All they need is an NL West champion to play.

Needing at least a win to have a shot at home field in the NLDS, the Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 on Sunday.

The Braves needed a win and a loss by both Colorado and Los Angeles to secure home-field advantage when the division series starts Thursday.

The Dodgers and Rockies both ended up winning big, setting up a one-game playoff to decide the NL West. But the Braves’ second straight loss in Philadelphia made those results inconsequential for Atlanta.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he’ll watch the NL West-deciding game like a regular fan.

“I don’t have a pick one way or the other,” he said. “I’m just glad we’re going to play Thursday.”

Cesar Hernandez hit a leadoff home run, and Rhys Hoskins’ RBI double in the fifth inning helped a Phillies team that was 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5 finish with 80 wins.

Losing home field was a mild disappointment to a Braves team that was a surprising, resounding success under Snitker. The Braves had lost 90-plus games in three straight seasons in a rebuild that was expected to see them need at least another season to contend for a playoff spot. Freeman, Nick Markakis and NL rookie of the year contender Ronald Acuna Jr. instead helped them become the first NL team to win 90 games (90-72) after three successive seasons of 90-plus losses.

“I’m happy for all the guys in there that endured all that,” Snitker said.

There’s more work ahead before they play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Colorado Rockies. Snitker said he’ll meet with the coaching staff and other members of the organization on Monday to determine the 25-man playoff roster. Shortstop Dansby Swanson’s sore left wrist may keep him off that roster. He took some swings on Sunday and continued to receive treatment.

With or without him, the Braves are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

“It’s a good feeling what we accomplished this year — where we came from, where we started to where we are right now,” Snitker said. “There were multiple boxes we needed to check along the way here, and we did. It’s very gratifying. I’m proud of the guys in that room and how they carried themselves and showed up to play every single day.”

Markakis led the way there, playing all 162 games for the Braves, and Freeman led the NL in hits.

Kevin Gausman (10-11) took the loss in his first start since Sept. 20 and settled down after Hernandez’s leadoff homer.

“I just kind of grooved that first pitch in there. I mean, it was right down the middle,” he said.

Tommy Hunter (5-4) earned the win in relief for the Phillies, and Seranthony Dominguez got his 16th save to end a season where expectations soared in early August only to become unraveled in one of the bigger — but not close to the biggest — late-season collapses in team history. The Phillies went 17-34 after they were 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5.

Rookie manager Gabe Kapler said 2019 could be a special season should his key players continue to improve — something think about in a pivotal offseason.

“It’s going to include probably a lot of thinking about the Phillies,” he said.

HIT KING

Freeman led the National League with 191 hits. He’s the first Brave to lead the NL outright since Terry Pendleton had 187 in 1991.

Freeman went 0 for 1 with a walk against the Phillies.

IRON MAN

Markakis because the fifth Atlanta Brave to start all 162 games since 1962. Markakis started in right field and struck out twice before he was replaced for some needed rest.

“He’s the definition of a pro,” Snitker said.

CHANGEUP

Sean Newcomb retired two batters in the sixth in the first relief appearance of his career. Newcomb went 12-9 in 30 starts this season and had started all 49 of his previous appearances.

GOING FOR THREE

Phillies starter Ranger Suarez struck out five in three innings — and hit a stand-up triple for his first career hit.

BANK ON IT

The Phillies finished 49-32 at home, their third-best record ever at Citizens Bank Park. They finished 31-50 on the road, the first time the Phillies were at least 15 games over .500 at home and 15 games under .500 on the road since 1955.

Hoskins addressed the crowd before the game and said there was “obviously a little bit of disappointment with the way the season ended” but added that the Phillies would learn from it and be better in 2019.

On fan appreciation day, Hoskins said Phillies fans were the best in baseball.

HE SAID IT

“If we had finished .500 this year, it would have been a huge step forward,” Snitker said.

UP NEXT

Braves: Play Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday, Game 2 Friday and Game 3 Sunday. Mike Foltynewicz is the likely Game 1 starter.

Phillies: GM Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail will meet the media this week to discuss plans for the offseason.

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Freeman, Braves rout Phils 10-2, push for playoff home field

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Freddie Freeman hit three doubles in a four-hit performance and drove in three runs as the Atlanta Braves kept up their push for home-field advantage in the playoffs, routing the Philadelphia Phillies 10-2 Friday night.

Atlanta Braves’ Johan Camargo rounds the bases after hitting a home run off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The NL East champion Braves improved to 90-70, coming off three straight seasons of at least 90 losses. They will face the NL West champion in the best-of-five Division Series — Colorado (90-70) leads that division and holds the tiebreaker over the Braves to host Game 1.

Johan Camargo, who homered, and Ronald Acuna Jr. each had three hits for Atlanta. Mike Foltynewicz pitched five strong innings, a week after helping the Braves beat Philadelphia to clinch their crown.

Rhys Hoskins homered in the ninth for the Phillies, who dropped their ninth straight game to guarantee a losing season for the sixth straight year. They have been outscored 70-21 during the skid, including 49-9 over the last five.

Following games on Aug. 7, Philadelphia led Atlanta by 1 ½ games for first place in the NL East, standing 15 games above .500. But the Phillies (78-82) are 14-33 since and have fallen to third place, 12 games behind the Braves, and four games under .500.

Foltynewicz (13-10) allowed one run on one hit with nine strikeouts and no walks.

Jerad Eickhoff (0-1) made his first start since last Aug. 30 and tied a franchise record held by Curt Schilling and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton by striking out seven straight batter. The right-hander followed his seventh strikeout by surrendering Camargo’s solo homer in the fourth and a single by Ozzie Albies, ending his night.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was soundly booed by the crowd of 24,306 when he removed Eickhoff after just 56 pitches and for subsequent pitching changes. Eickhoff’s season ended last year due to nerve irritation in his right hand and he was sidelined until Sept. 2 of this season due to a right lat strain. He allowed two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in 3 1/3 innings.

After Eickhoff left in the fourth, the Braves scored three runs on run-scoring singles by Charlie Culberson and Acuna off Edubray Ramos.

Philadelphia got a run back in the bottom half on Odubel Herrera’s RBI double.

After a Phillies error in the seventh, their 122nd of the season, helped Atlanta go up 5-1, the Braves scored three more in the eighth on Freeman’s two-run double and Ender Inciarte’s RBI single.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: Philadelphia is the only team in baseball without a player on the DL. According to the Phillies, it would be the first time since at least 1994 if they finish the season without a player on the DL.

UP NEXT

Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (16-6, 2.45) makes his final start when he opposes Braves RHP Anibal Sanchez on Saturday night.

This is the season Braves’ Pitcher Mike Foltynewicz has been striving for

Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz (26) throws against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Atlanta won 4-1. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Over the years, the Braves have been blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching. Which is what makes Mike Foltynewicz’s season all the more impressive. On Friday night, Folty became just the sixth pitcher in Atlanta era history with 200 strikeouts in a single season. The feat was last accomplished by Javier Vazquez who punched out 238 batters back in 2009, over a span of 219.1 innings of work.

For Foltynewicz, an All-Star for the first time in 2018, it’s been a season he’s been working towards since he joined the Braves. Last year, he was as good as the club had through the first four months. But in August and September, Folty seemingly ran out of gas and stumbled towards the finish line. But this season, it’s been a much different story. He’s found his confidence. He’s been able to slow the game down. And most importantly, he’s worked ahead in the count. The addition of the slider has also proven to be an effective weapon. Last year, he utilized the pitch about 23% of the time. This year, the slider usage has upped to nearly 30%.

Equally impressive this season has been Folty’s average against. Over 32 starts this season, Foltynewicz posted a .195 average against as the Braves became just the fourth team in MLB history to have multiple starting pitchers post an average against below .200 (others: 1968 Indians, 1986 Astros, 2015 Dodgers). It’s been a season of tremendous growth for Mike Foltyneiwcz, who has certainly earned the right to get the nod in Thursdays NLDS opener. Who he’ll face may not be determined until Sunday. Or later. So stay tuned to the out-of-town scoreboard and keep an eye on both the Dodgers and Rockies!

@KevinMcAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet