A funny thing happens when you pair the two worst teams in MLB against each other: one of them has to win each night. When two blind squirrels are in a cage searching for three nuts and aren’t released until all of the nuts are collected, one of them is going to end up with at least two. The Braves were the lucky winner to emerge from The Battle of the Bottom Dwellers, taking advantage of a rare strong road start by Julio Teheran to prove that, per the rules, one team has to win each game.
To put the icing on the cake the Braves finally lived up to the billing of “spoiler”, as they were able to piece enough wins together in this series to officially eliminate the Phillies from playoff contention.
Oh, wait a minute. That sentence would have been a lot more fun to write in, say, 2008, but I’ll take what I can get. The Braves also used the victory to stave off their own official elimination (it ain’t over ’til it’s over!), and their elimination number remains at 1. They now find themselves in an enthralling battle with Colorado to see who will become the next team to have their season become officially meaningless.
While it’s hard to complain about your team scoring 8 runs on any given evening, the Braves did it on 18 hits and 6 walks, which takes a bit of the shine off of the accomplishment. They recorded 10 of those hits against the Phillies embattled starter, who only last 3.1 innings and sounds like he just lost his starting job. Three Braves double plays in the first four innings made his line look a lot better than it otherwise could have been.
Nick Markakis, Hector Olivera, Freddie Freeman, Christian Bethancourt, and Michael Bourn all had multiple hits, and each starter picked up at least one hit. Bethancourt’s 3-for-5 night included an opposite field home run in the 4th to break a 1-1 tie. Bourn’s night allowed him to double the number of hits he has recorded in his second stint with the Braves (okay, I kid, but his 4-for-5 night sure felt that way). Playing games at Great American Ballpark is fun.
Road Julio limited the Phillies to 4 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings to pick up his 10th win on the season. The Braves scored two more runs in the top of the 8th to take a 7-run lead, and the bullpen was actually able to nail down the victory.
On that note, Fredi completely threw his bullpen under the bus after the game when asked if he had considered pulling Teheran in the 7th with the bases were loaded. His response? “Have you seen our bullpen?” While that probably didn’t do anything for team chemistry or inspire a bunch of guys who really aren’t big league relievers to suddenly become effective big league relievers, in total fairness to Fredi…have you seen the Braves bullpen? I’m not pulling Teheran there, either, if I’m him, and fortunately* for the Braves it worked out.
As fun as an 8-1 win is, the real entertainment of the evening occurred in D.C., where our old pal Kelly Johnson hit a pinch hit homer in the 8th inning to break a 2-2 tie and help the Mets complete the sweep over our favorite World Champs. Even the much beloved Bryce Harper‘s two homers and one double could not keep the Nats from being reminded that when they play real teams (i.e. not Atlanta), their true colors show.
The Braves don’t have long to celebrate their first series win in a month, as they head home to face those division leading Mets in a four-game set starting Thursday. Hopefully, though, they will have just long enough to celebrate that it will whet their appetites to want to do that once more before the season ends. How about Sept. 29-Oct. 1, guys? Pretty please?
*Being a fan forces me to say “fortunately” here, because no matter how bad things get, it’s still ridiculously more fun to root for a win than to root for a #1 draft pick. Despite The Johns seemingly doing their best to flush this season down the john by blowing up the Braves for the nth time following their .500 start, they are publicly denying their desire to be the worst team in baseball, which makes things so much better. Thanks, Johns! All of those years I looked at the perennial MLB bottom feeders—Royals, Cubs, Rays, Pirates—and felt some pity for them, I never until now really understood just how embarrassing it is to wear the label “worst MLB team.” Best draft pick or not, let’s not be in this race again for a very long time.