Our Braves defeated to Diamondbacks 5-2 on Thursday behind a strong start from Kyle Wright and another scorching performance by Austin Riley.
Austin Riley keeps hitting line drives over and off the left field wall. He did so in his first three ABs, with the first one clearing the wall and the next two banging off it. Each of those drives was over 100 mph; in fact, they averaged 108 mph.
Madison Bumgarner started for the Snakes. He’s been pitching pretty well—he tossed 8 innings of two run ball in his last start. That would have been more impressive had he done so against a major league lineup—but it was only the Nationals. The Braves crush left handed pitching, and they roughed up MadBum pretty well in this one.
In the bottom of the first, Riley hit a screaming liner down the third base line that carried over the wall just inside the foul pole. The launch angle was 19 degrees, but it left the bat at 110 mph and just kept carrying, until it dented the wall at the back of the visitors’ bullpen. That made it a 1-0 game; it would have been 2-0, as Swanson had singled in front of him, but Dansby had just gotten picked off when he broke too soon for second.
The Braves scored 3 more in the bottom of the 4th to take a 4-0 lead. A Harris BB (good to see that!—he reached base three times, on a walk, bunt single, and HBP) Acuna single (ditto! Ronald’s hitting too many grounders, but he’s starting to hit it harder), and throwing error yielded the first run, and a Riley double and TDA single delivered the next two. The 5th and final Braves run scored in the 5th inning when Riley doubled home Dansby who had singled.
Meanwhile, Kyle Wright retired the first six batters of the game in order. But in the third, a lead off walk followed by a throwing error by Arcia on a double play grounder put runners on second and third with no outs. Steve Avery, who was in the TV booth that inning, pointed out, correctly, that holding them to one run would be a great effort. But with a strikeout, a line out to second, and a grounder to second, Kyle kept them off the scoreboard altogether.
Wright did surrender a run in the fourth on a walk and a couple of singles, and another in the 5th on a solo homer. But he pitched a 1-2-3 6th, and pitched into the 7th. He left after 6 and two thirds, giving up five hits, two walks, and just the two runs. Another solid outing by Wright; his consistency is very impressive.
Wright allowed two runners to reach in the 7th, but Dylan Lee came on to get a strikeout to end the inning. Lee has taken Matzek’s pace in the bullpen pecking order. Snit has no compunction in turning to him in the highest leverage situations. By the numbers, Lee is having the best season of any Braves reliever. Speaking of excellent relievers, Colin McHugh pitched a scoreless 8th. He’s has given up just two hits in his last nine outings.
So Jansen comes on for the save. Bottom line—he pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the 5-2 win, and he struck out the side in doing so. On the other hand, he had all of us sweating it out. The go ahead run came to the plate with two outs in the ninth, because Kenly’s scoreless frame also included a triple and two walks. The key was the order in which he did so. Much better to allow a triple followed by two walks than to walk two and then allow a triple. Anyway, he struck the last guy out to end the game and start the fireworks show.
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I mentioned Steve Avery being in the TV booth. It’s Alumni Weekend, so several former players were on hand. Ralph Garr was in the booth at one point. I loved hearing him talk about Mr. Aaron and what a positive influence he had been on Garr, Dusty Baker, and other young players. It was also fun to hear Francisco Cabrera talk about his famous hit for the thousandth time. I for one will never tire of that.
I still think of this as Oldtimers Weekend, but as I look at the former players, I am older than almost all of them, so I guess I appreciate the change in nomenclature.
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Weekly note from me on perspective: This is an excellent Braves team that continues to play great baseball. The lineup is deep, the starters (with one exception) are solid, and the bullpen continues to be the most effective in the league. After the record setting June, they are 15-8 in July. After cutting away most of the Mets’ 10.5 game lead at the end of May, they’ve kept pace in July.
The deficit remains 3 games, after the Mets defeated the Fish and Alcantara on Friday night. The Mets aren’t folding. But the most crucial stretch of the season is coming up. After two more against the Diamondbacks and two against the Phils, our guys will face the Mets nine times in a two week stretch. That’s something to look forward to.
We will also remain glued to our devices the next couple of days to see what kind of surprise AA brings us for Xmas. One thing the Alumni Weekend reminds me–there were a lot of times it could be tough to be a Braves fan. Right now, it’s pretty great.