The Braves defeated the Diamondbacks 1-0 Sunday in a good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, sweeping them out of town in a three-game set. It moved Atlanta to 62-41 on the season and left them three games back of the New York Mets for first place in the division. They’ve opened up considerable space in the wild card race, though, pulling 6 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the race for the final playoff spot and five games ahead of San Diego in the race for the top wild card spot.
Austin Riley broke the club record for most extra-base hits in a month with his final swing of the month, a game-winning RBI double into the right-center gap that managed to score Matt Olson all the way from first for the one-run win. That gave him 26 extra-base hits for the month of July, besting the great Hank Aaron’s July 1961 for the Milwaukee Braves by a single extra-base hit. He also had a double in the second inning (about which more in a second) that seemed to me to be his 10th double that came within a foot or two of being home run this week (somebody’s gonna have to check my math on that), so he needed two extra-base hits today for the record and he got them both. Pretty incredible.
Max Fried was outstanding (despite not knowing how to win). After a few rocky-ish starts (to be fair, only one was actually bad), he was back to the Max Fried we all know and love today. Seven shutout innings, four hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Three of those hits came over his final two innings, which he labored through a bit.
The bullpen was great for a couple innings, as well, with Dylan Lee and Kenley Jansen combining for two innings of hitless relief with two walks and two strikeouts.
Next comes a two-game set with Philadelphia at home, followed by a five-game set (an original four-gamer with a doubleheader thrown in) against the Mets. That latter series could wind up being huge if somebody takes four or five games…or not so much if it finishes 3-2. As Chip would say, let’s see how it plays out.
Now, a random oddity: the play that ended the bottom of the second.
For those of you who didn’t see, the Braves had Travis d’Arnaud at first and Riley at second with William Contreras at the plate with one out. Contreras hit a screamer toward the left-field corner that Arizona left fielder Jake McCarthy appeared to catch with a leaping attempt. However, he was rapidly approaching the wall when he landed. He took a couple steps, hit the wall, and the ball popped out of his glove. This is not a legal catch. However, the problem was that the umpire apparently called “out,” freezing the baserunners, before seeing the ball pop out and calling “no catch.” This turnabout caused mass confusion on the basepaths, and Riley and d’Arnaud were forced out at third and second, respectively, for a rare fielder’s choice/double play.
First of all, there was nothing the umpires could do via replay. It was either a catch (which it wasn’t), in which case Contreras is out and Riley is out at second, as he was nowhere near the bag there when the ball arrived, or it was a non-catch (the correct call), in which case neither Riley nor d’Arnaud made the next base before the ball got there, meaning they’re both forced out. Either way, inning over.
I saw a lot of complaining about the umpire here, but I really think it was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. We occasionally see plays where an umpire waits to make a call on a play like this, and it never goes well. Umpires are taught to make a call, not sit there and think about it. Because if they sit there and think about it, the baserunners have no idea what in the hell to do. So this umpire quickly made a call. But here’s a situation where that call turned out to be incorrect and he had to immediately reverse it. I’m kind of sympathetic to the umpire here, and I’m not sure what the right answer is. I guess you could say that if you see an outfielder about to hit a wall, don’t make a call until after. But then you’re stuck holding everybody in limbo for 2-3 seconds. If he doesn’t make a call of any type until after McCarthy hits the wall and the ball pops out, maybe Riley and d’Arnaud get to the next base. But I’m not sure they wouldn’t have seen the initial catch and gone back to their original bases anyway. It looked like this play might wind up deciding the game, and it didn’t do that. Nevertheless, I found it endlessly interesting as one of those crazy baseball plays where nobody on the field knows what’s going on.