As if the baseball gods had been holding back during the first five games this season, on Tuesday night everything clicked for the Braves, as Atlanta evened its series against Washington with a 16-4 thumping.
As the title of this very recap implies, literally everyone in the Braves lineup recorded a hit last night, including multi-hit performances from six different Atlanta batters…
- Ozzie Albies: 3 for 5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI
- Marcell Ozuna: 3 for 6, 2 HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI
- Travis d’Arnaud: 3 for 5, 3 R
- Adam Duvall: 3 for 5, 2 RBI
- Dansby Swanson: 2 for 6, 2B, 2 RBI
- Orlando Arcia: 2 for 4, 2 RBI
It was a joy to see. The Braves scored 11 unanswered runs through the first five innings last night, highlighted by a four-run fourth that featured a solo home run for the hot-hitting Ozuna (his first of two on the night), RBI singles for each of Swanson and Arcia, and a run-scoring groundout by Albies. Boom, boom, boom… just like that Atlanta was rolling.
Back-to-back homers by the Nationals in the sixth – from both Juan Soto and Josh Bell – didn’t seem to slow the Braves down either. Following two quick outs by both Swanson (flyout) and Guillermo Heredia (strikeout), in the bottom-half of the inning, Arcia and Albies drew back to back walks. A single by Matt Olson loaded the bases, and next up was slugger Austin Riley, who plated two to push Atlanta’s advantage back up to ten.
By the eighth inning, the Nats had raised the white flag. And in an effort to try and save its bullpen, Washington opted to pitch position-player Dee Strange-Gordon. As you’d expect… it didn’t go too well. Gordon did good to get a quick fly-out from Arcia, but Albies tagged him with yet another Braves dinger to tack on a 14th run. That longball must have rattled Gordon a bit, though, for he walked both Olson and Riley before getting another out. Then, providing a bit of comedy for those still tuning in to this blowout of a game, Gordon hit d’Arnaud with a pitch that probably wouldn’t have even registered 30 MPH on the radar gun. Of course, d’Arnaud had to add a little playful flop to keep things light.
Refusing to save some runs for the rest of the series, the Braves added two more runs in that three-run eighth. Following d’Arnaud’s beam ball, Gordon walked Duvall to push in Olson, and then Swanson provided Atlanta with its final hit of the game when he slapped a ground ball single to left, scoring Riley. Recently called-up just before Tuesday’s game, Atlanta’s Jackson Stephens pitched around a double, RBI single and single in the final inning to regroup and get back to back outs to end the game. Stephens entered in the seventh and worked the final three frames for the Braves, effectively preserving the team’s bullpen.
I of course haven’t even mentioned the main storyline of last night’s win – the MLB debut for prospect Bryce Elder. I wrote about Elder pre-game on Tuesday, but for those unaware, the 22-year-old made his very first big league start for Atlanta, having pitched just one season so far as a pro. Elder didn’t exactly dominate versus the Nationals, as he walked four and allowed three runs (2 HR) from six hits. But four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings is pretty solid considering the kid doesn’t yet possess a whiff-inducing repertoire. Plus, if you scratch out those back to back long balls he allowed to Soto and Bell in the sixth, then we’re talking about a very different final line. Overall, Elder needed 85 pitches to retire 17 Washington batters on Tuesday, which isn’t great, but not horrible. What was great, though, was his ability to keep the ball in the dirt; of Elder’s ten batted-ball outs, eight were groundouts.
All in all, Elder’s performance, and of course the onslaught of runs by the offense, was exactly what the Braves needed on Tuesday. The huge lead allowed the young starter to stay calm and do his thing, which I’m sure helped him stay on the mound longer, and in turn, benefited the bullpen. Veteran Darren O’Day was the only regular Atlanta reliever that pitched last night, and honestly he probably needed some work (albeit he only got the final out of the sixth).
Another notable storyline is the top-half of that Braves lineup (nos.1-4), which finished 8 for 18 (.444 AVG) with three homers, three doubles and seven RBI last night. And it’s not just Tuesday’s game either. That quartet of hitters (Albies, Olson, Riley, Ozuna) is sporting a collective .343 AVG and 1.079 OPS through the season’s first six games, making it a 1 thru 4 I’m sure opposing pitchers absolutely dread to face right now. I love it!
The Braves and Nats will play a Businessman’s Special on Wednesday, with a rare week-day day game at Truist Park. First pitch is set for 12:20 PM (ET), as Atlanta will hope for better results from lefty Max Fried, who allowed an uncharacteristic five runs from eight hits in his Opening Day outing versus the Reds last week. Tomorrow D.C. will turn to righty Josiah Gray, who also got knocked around a bit in his previous start, allowing four runs from eight hits against the Mets back on Friday.
Let’s go Braves!