The Atlanta Braves will attempt to punch their ticket to the National League Championship Series on Tuesday when they play the Milwaukee Brewers in . If the Braves are to advance, they'll have to do it without outfielder and leadoff hitter Jorge Soler, who was removed from the roster after he tested positive for COVID-19. Cristian Pache has been approved as a substitute.
According to Major League Baseball's procedures, Pache will remain on the active roster until Soler is approved for reinstatement. Soler will miss at least five days, after which he can return once the joint COVID-19 committee can clear him by deeming him non-infectious, as explained by The Athletic's David O'Brien. Soler, then, will miss the rest of the Braves' series with the Brewers. The NLCS is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Oct. 16, meaning if the Braves advance he could return after that series is already underway.
Soler, 29 years old, has been a boon to the Braves lineup since he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Kansas City Royals. Whereas he hit .192/.288/.370 (76 OPS+) with 13 home runs in 94 games with Kansas City, he batted .269/.358/.524 (128 OPS+) with 14 home runs in 55 games with Atlanta.
In a departure from the norm, manager Brian Snitker had taken to using Soler as his leadoff hitter late in the season. That decision had paid off, with Soler hitting .244/.352/.556 in 55 plate appearances from the top spot in the order.
Pache, 22 years old, is a high-grade defensive outfielder who has yet to establish a foothold on a big-league job. In 72 career plate appearances in the Show, he's hit .119/.157/.209 (-5 OPS+) with 25 more strikeouts than walks. It stands to reason the Braves probably won't use Pache outside of being a late-inning defensive sub or pinch-runner, with Atlanta instead leaning on Joc Pederson to take Soler's reps.
The Braves lead the Brewers by a 2-1 margin in the best-of-five series. Should a Game 5 prove to be necessary, it will be played on Thursday in Milwaukee at Miller Park. The winner of this series will advance to play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants for the right to represent the NL in the World Series.