It was a week of firsts in the sports world. The St Louis Blues won their first chance for their player’s kids to Pee In The Most Sacred Trophy In Sports this summer. The Toronto Raptors stuck enough pins into their Warriors voodoo dolls to take The Least Sacred Trophy In Sports back to Canada for the first time, where 93% of Canadians will wonder why the Raptor’s kids don’t get to pee in it. And, most importantly, the Braves and the Phillies matched up for the first of 16 games that will most likely decide who will win the NL East this year.
Max Fried toed the rubber for Atlanta, matched up against Nick Pivetta. Both hurlers shut down the opposition in the 1st inning. But in the second Fried started a slow motion meltdown. It started with three straight Phillies’ singles, plating Jay Bruce for Philly’s first run. Josh Donaldson answered that back on the first pitch in the bottom of the frame, launching his tenth homer of the year to tie it back up.
In the top of the 3rd, Philly took the lead, with a Jean Segura infield single, followed by a Bryce Harper two run bomb. In the bottom of the 3rd, Atlanta tried to answer, with Fried working a 13(!) pitch walk and Ronald Acuna Jr. singling. But Dansby Swanson struck out on three breaking balls, Freddie Freeman flied out to DEEP center, and Donaldson grounded out to end the threat.
After working that walk, Fried got involved in the pitching end of a long AB to start the 4th, with Scott Kingery ultimately victimizing him for a 10 pitch at bat that ended with a solo homer. 4-1, Bad Guys. Atlanta squandered another chance in the bottom of the frame, with Austin Riley being thrown out at second on a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play, one pitch after Brian McCann should’ve walked but the umpire disagreed.
Onto the 5th, where Fried ran into two out trouble. A single to J.T. Realmuto was followed by a Rhys Hoskins walk. Fried wild pitched them to second and third, and with his pitch count nearing 100 pitches, he unleashed another wild pitch on a 3-2 count to Jay Bruce which scored Realmuto. Dan Winkler came on to strike out Kingery to end the frame. Winkler did provide some comic relief in the bottom of the inning when he successfully laid down a sacrifice with his eyes closed. However an Acuna flyball and a Swanson groundout stranded Ozzie Albies at third.
Winkler was efficient in the 6th, needing just nine pitches to retire the side in order. And on the bottom of the frame Freddie Freeman led off his a solo homer to cut the lead to 3. But Winkler wasn’t as sharp in the 7th. He walked Segura to lead off, but got Harper to ground into a double play. However, an Albies error put Realmuto on, and Hoskins followed that up with a two run bomb to push the lead back to five.
But, these are the Braves, and it’s never a good idea to stop watching (or, in my case, fall asleep.) BMac led off the inning with Atlanta’s third solo shot to cut the lead to 7-3. A two out Acuna double was followed by a Swanson walk to chase Pivetta. FF5 singled off Vince Velasquez to make it a three run game again.
Philly played some Joe Simpson Small Ball in the top of the 8th off Josh Tomlin, with a Kingery double, a Sean Rodriguez sac fly, and a Cesar Hernandez sac fly plating their 8th run. But Atlanta wouldn’t go away, with Nick Markakis singling, moving to second on a comebacker by BMac, and scoring on an Albies single. Charlie Culberson then tripled in Ozzie to cut the lead to two at 8-6.
Snit then inserted Jerry Blevins in to pitch the ninth. What could go wrong? Well, a lead off walk to Segura to start. But Harper struck out, and Realmuto grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Segura. But Hoskins walked and Realmuto stole third bringing up Bruce. But Blevins induced a pop fly to Ozzie, setting us up for the second best bottom of the 9th of the night (after the Padres’ six run outburst to tie their game about five hours before I write this). Dansby singled off Hector Neris to lead off the inning. FabFiveFreddie struck out, but Swanson advanced to second on a Donaldson ground ball to third base. Markakis walked, and Austin Riley doubled home Lt. Dans to make it 8-7. BMac then walked the Braves off with a looping fly ball that just managed to get down into left center giving the Braves a win in a game that they shouldn’t have won. But, this team has demonstrated a trait for winning games they shouldn’t for the two plus years that Brian Snitker has managed them. We’ll take it. 2 and a half up in the division now, with Sean Newcomb set to start against Aaron Nola. Let’s play Game Two!