I guess it’s something?
The bar for the 2021 Braves is the lowest it’s been for the franchise in four years. Some of it is because of injuries, some of it is underachieving, some of it is self-inflicted wounds.
But one way or another, this is where we are. And where we are is just looking to check the smallest boxes. But in Friday night’s 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds, the smallest boxes were checked.
Scored more than two runs? Yep. Got hits from the bottom third of the lineup? Some big ones tonight. Getting six innings from the starting pitcher? Drew Smyly held the fort. Didn’t blow a lead in the ninth inning? Will Smith made it interesting, but held on for the save.
It’s not a lot, but it’s something. And in 2021, something is a lot.
- Drew Smyly gave the Braves an opportunity to win. Don’t look now, but the Braves have actually won four consecutive Smyly starts. The most impressive part of tonight was how he navigated his achilles heel in place that could have been the breeding ground for a disaster. In a notoriously small ballpark, the Braves’ pitcher who has been plagued by home runs the most this season did not let one sneak over the wall.
He gave up eight flyouts, but he never made the big mistake that could have turned this game around. Damage limitation is the name of the game for Smyly, and tonight he held the Reds at bay just enough.
- Speaking of home runs, should we talk about Dansby Swanson’s power surge? His struggles at the plate have been well documented, but none of that applies to the long ball. Swanson hit his 13th dinger of the season tonight, and is just four away from matching his career-high in homers for a season with 87 games left. Is he going to sneak his way into the fold for 2022 just on the strength of home runs? It’s worth asking the question right now.
- Guillermo Heredia’s wrists: Good for wielding swords and hitting game-winning home runs.
- The biggest pitch of the night was the double play AJ Minter induced from Joey Votto with the go-ahead runs on base in the eighth. I’m sure a lot of us were thinking “here we go again” with two runners on, but Minter executed his trademark cutter and got the groundball he needed.
- No hits to show for it, but welcome back to the lineup Ronald Acuña Jr.!
- Luke Jackson was touched up for the second night in a row tonight when Eugenio Suárez tagged him for a seventh inning homer. The Braves don’t have enough reliable relievers for one of the ones that has been pitching well to suddenly drop off. Pitchers have blips all the time and two shaky outings isn’t a reason to hit the panic button, but it’s definitely something to monitor.
- William Contreras has officially hit the skids. The rookie catcher is 11-for-59 at the plate in June, slashing .186/.238/.305 for the month. The even scarier part is that .543 OPS still makes him far and away the best hitting catcher on the roster this month.
- 1-for-10 with RISP and eight runners left on base for the Braves tonight, and four of those nine outs were against a Cincinnati bullpen that has been disastrous this week. It didn’t cost the Braves, but that game never should have been at the point where it was in doubt down to the final pitch.
Former Brave Of The Day:
Former Brave on Former Brave crime tonight in Arlington, where Charlie Culberson knocked Mike Minor out of the game with a two-run double en route to a 9-4 Rangers win over the Royals. To be clear, Culberson wins the award in this case.
Quote Of The Game:
“Winning depends on where you put your priorities. It’s usually best to put them over the fence.”
– Jason Giambi
Don’t let 2021 Luis Castillo turn into pre-2021 Luis Castillo. This is a pitcher who has had a terrible time this season. Take advantage of it and put up a crooked number or two early.