The Braves never trailed against the Dodgers on Saturday, cruising to a 4-3 victory. 

Just kidding.  The Braves really did defeat the Dodgers, and the Dodgers never led.  But those of you who watched the game, didn’t it feel like the Braves were trailing throughout? Given the recent struggles of the Braves bullpen, one could be forgiven for lacking faith.

But maybe Alex Anthopolous does know what he is doing.  With the Braves leading 4-3 going to the 8th, Shane Greene struck out the side, and Melancon got the save by allowing only one baserunner in the ninth, getting the Dodgers’ best hitters, including Bellinger on a weak pop to third to end the game.

But back to the beginning.  The matchup of starting pitchers certainly favored the Dodgers.  Ryu has been the best pitcher in the league this year, and Mike Foltynewicv has not.  An ERA of 1.4 vs. and ERA over 6. 

The Braves jumped out to a 2 run lead in the third, on an Hecheverria double (delighted to have him, but get well soon Dansby!!), a walk to Acuña, and an Albies double on an 0-2 pitch.  RAJ had been running on the pitch and scored easily.

Meanwhile, Folty was holding his own.  He gave up a run in the 4th on a laser shot homer to Matt Beaty (where do they find these guys? They’ve got about 10 guys on the IL, and they keep running guys out there who can crush it.)  Then in the 5th a walk, single, and a single by “Ned” Beaty (our organist played the theme to Deliverance when Beaty came to the plate) tied the game at 2.  At that point, Folty had given up 2 runs in 4 2/3 innings of work.  The problem was, he tossed 107 pitches and still couldn’t get though the 5th.  He only walked two, but it seemed like every hitter worked the count to 3-2.

[The Braves have two starting pitchers named Mike.  Other than their given names, they don’t have much in common.  I realized tonight that Folty is the Bizzaro Soroka.  Soroka is very efficient–at his best he averages 10-12 pitches per inning.   Folty is incredibly inefficient.  Did you note what I just said above? 107 pitches to go 4 2/3!  Soroka is is cool as a cucumber on the mound; Folty is as agitated as a cat on a hot tin roof.  Most importantly, Soroka is a delight to watch.  Watching Folty, even when he is relatively effective as he was on Saturday, is almost excruciating.]

So Snit turned to Sean Newcomb to try to close out the fifth.  What?!  Wasn’t he watching the night before when Newk single-handedly surrendered the lead Soroka had left him?  Give Newk a tremendous amount of credit.  He not only got Rios to end the 5th with the game still tied, he then pitched a 1-2-3 6th. To be fair, one of those was the pitcher and one was Joc Pederson who hits like a pitcher against lefties.  Still, Newk did his job, and it’s got to be a big confidence booster for him.

Meanwhile, Ryu had settled down and was looking like his usual efficient self.  But in the bottom of the 6th, Donaldson and Duvall went back to back off Ryu and the Braves led 4-2.  Luke Jackson caught JD’s blast in the Braves bullpen, so I guess that meant he had the right to pitch the seventh.  Given the choices in this pen, that seems like as good a reason as any to choose a reliever.  Jackson gave up a solo shot to Max Munchkin Muncey, but managed to escape with a 4-3 lead thanks in part to a vicious liner that was speared by Donaldson.

That led to the sterling efforts of Greene in the 8th and Melancon in the 9th.  What a terrific but nerve wracking victory!

By the way, I watch most of the games.  Paul Nauert’s pitch calling behind the plate was the worst I’ve seen all year.  It wasn’t quite Eric Gregg level bad in the Livan Hernandez playoff game, but at least Gregg was consistent.  Nauert called several pitches strikes that were six inches off the plate, but he also called a few balls on pitches that were plainly in the zone.  Let’s give him a pass, only because his bizarre calls didn’t really favor one team over the other, and after this great win I’m not in the mood to complain.

As I write this, we don’t know whether the Braves lead will remain 4 ½ or go to 5 ½.  The gNats and Brewers are 12-12 in the 12th.  The Nationals overcame deficits of 5-0 and 8-5 to take an 11-8 lead going to the 9th.  But Doolittle surrendered 4 and the Brewers led 12-11 going to the bottom of the 9th.  Hader allowed the Nats to score 1 run and then loaded the bases with no outs and the top of the order coming up.  The Nats win probability must have been about 99%.  But of course Hader then struck out Turner, Eaton, and Rendon to send it to extra innings.

I’m going to bed before that one is over.  But whatever happens there, remember that the Braves and Natspos play seven games in September.  It’s going to be a great race, but I like our chances.  If the new bullpen guys can give us more like tonight, we’re in good shape.

Braves try to win the series Sunday with Max Fried on the hill facing his hometown team.  He grew up idolizing Koufax and trying to copy him.  Show them what you learned from that, Max.