There’s an old baseball adage: “Hit ’em where they ain’t.” Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies isn’t quite following that mantra, but because the glove he keeps finding is teammate Mark Melancon’s in the bullpen, Albies is doing just fine.
Albies has homered in Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. Both home runs have landed in the left-field bullpen while Melancon was involved in varying degrees of warming up. Both times, Melancon caught Albies’ home run.
“That’s more home runs I’ve caught my entire life, let alone this season,” Melancon said after Game 2. “Hopefully tomorrow night is three in a row.”
Melancon is Atlanta’s closer, which means both times he’s been warming up have been late in the game with Atlanta leading (the Braves are off to a 2-0 lead in the series). In Game 1, Albies (a switch-hitter) turned on a pitch from left-handed reliever Jake McGee to find Melancon’s glove in the left-field bullpen with a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Albies pulled another ninth-inning home run in Game 2 off lefty Adam Kolarek, and there was Melancon, ready to catch it again.
“He’s had two really good catches the last two nights,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Game 2. “I guess he’s playing the card; he’s well-positioned. He knows where to play Ozzie.”
Although Albies is a switch-hitter, he’s known for being especially dangerous batting from the right side. In his career, he’s got a .952 OPS batting righty, nearly 200 points higher than his OPS from the left side. The Dodgers may be best served pitching to Albies with right-handed relievers from now on.
As a reliever, Melancon hasn’t had much chance to build a reputation as a good fielder in his career. Across 160 career chances, he’s made three errors. But apparently, at least lately, his glove is a magnet for baseballs off the bat of Albies.
What are the odds of Melancon catching another Albies home run in Game 3? They’re not zero, because LA is starting left-hander Julio Urias (although Melancon would likely have to just position himself for a home run early, because he likely won’t be warming up while Urias pitches). One thing that seems certain is that a tweet Melancon sent after his Game 1 catch won’t come to fruition. Playing off the classic John Fogerty song lyrics, Melacon wrote, “Look at me, I can be, center field!” Only in his dreams and in the center field of the left-field bullpen.
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