Who knew Zach Eflin was the second coming of Greg Maddux?
You just have to tip your cap to Eflin today. He had the Braves guessing all day, never even surrendering an extra base hit until Johan Camargoâ€™s sixth inning home run. That might have been the best starting pitching performance the Braves have run into all season, or the worst output from the Atlanta bats if you want to have that outlook.
But last week the Phillies lost the first two games of a road weekend series against the Braves, then salvaged the finale on Sunday Night Baseball. The Braves will have a chance to turn an identical trick tomorrow night.
Before the series finale though, itâ€™s time to look back at what was a pretty lackluster game two.
- Johan Camargo is approaching his at-bats this season like a person on a strict diet 29 out of 30 days a month. Sure, no carbs or dessert all those other days. But that one day? Go nuts and just stuff your calories with 5,000 calories worth of deliciousness. Same principle here. Yes, Johan came into today slashing .172/.214/.333 and riding out an 0-for-16 slump. But that one hit today today? A 442-foot moonshot home run into the second deck.
- Tyler Matzek looked great before a monsoon engulfed the mound and cut his outing short. He put out a fire in the fifth inning with a runner in scoring position and came within two pitches of an immaculate inning in the sixth. If Brian Snitker is willing to think a little outside the box, Matzek could be a really good opener to allow Josh Tomlin or Robbie Erlin to go through the lineup twice without having to face the top part of an opposing lineup three times.
- Nick Markakis pulled a Hank Aaron todayâ€”and by that I mean he broke a record held by Babe Ruth. His 507th career double put him above Ruth on the all-time list.
- Ronald AcuÃ±a Jr. had by far his best defensive performance in center field of the season. Much like how Blooper stole Bryce Harperâ€™s money last year, AcuÃ±a made two great catches to rob Harper of two RBI hits. First he made a leaping catch in the third while backpedaling and then he put on his Superman cape to make a diving snag in the seventh. Just when Ender Inciarte thought he was safeâ€¦
- Josh Tomlin gave the Braves a perfectly reasonable start until he was asked to to give them an unreasonable one. If the Braves are going to ride out the season essentially using long relievers to fill out the back of the rotation, there has to be some give in how those games are managed. Josh Tomlin was asked to go through the lineup for a third time in a one-run game, and the three-run home run Rhys Hoskins hit in his third time facing him was the decisive blow.
Four innings of one-run baseball would have been a good outcome for Tomlin, but he couldnâ€™t run the extra mile. Now itâ€™s on Brian Snitker and his staff to make sure he doesnâ€™t have to again; either by using an opener or just setting an 18 plate appearance cap on his outings. After that, he reaches the point of diminishing returns.
- Every day the mental gymnastics it takes to talk yourself into Matt Adams gets harder and harder. He did some great things for the 2017 Braves, but right now this lineup is a balloon and he is the pin you stab in it when the party is ending. His OPS is down to .563 after two more strikeouts today. If the Braves are completely set (or stuck) with Inciarte, they could still call up Pache in favor of adams. That gives Snitker the flexibility to DH Markakis or Ozuna on any given night while still having AcuÃ±a and Pacheâ€™s defense in the outfield.
- It wasnâ€™t even close to the reason the Braves lost but a passed ball from Tyler Flowers cost the Braves an early run. The pitch wasnâ€™t even in the dirt, but it popped out of Tylerâ€™s glove to give Andrew McCutchen second base and he came around to score after two flyouts.
- The bats were awful. Itâ€™s hard to really sugarcoat how rough it was. Of course Eflin deserves a ton of credit for his performance but 5-for-31 at the plate against Eflin and a pair of relievers wonâ€™t cut it. For the whole series the Braves have scored four earned runs in 20 innings, and three of them came on solo home runs. This lineup needs to put a rally together tomorrow to give Huascar Ynoa a chance at a win.
- In the big picture the Braves are still in good shape, but thereâ€™s something to be said about letting the Phillies gain some traction. You never want to let a divisional rival up off the mat, and the Braves have let the Phillies beat them three times in a row now dating back to last weekend. Who knows what a series sweep over the Braves this weekend could springboard the Phillies to. Thatâ€™s the situation the Braves are staring down tomorrow night.
Former Brave Of The Day:
Itâ€™s a little known fact, but Victor Caritini was originally drafted by the Braves. He was traded to the Cubs at the 2014 deadline…for Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell. Yikes. Caritini didnâ€™t get a hit today, but he guided Yu Darvish to six innings of shutout baseball behind the plate in Chicagoâ€™s 3-0 win over Cincinnati.
Quote Of The Game:
â€œMay I remind you that the primary objective is to hit the ball?â€
– Dmitri Petrovich, Backyard Baseball
Get a lead. The Phillies have scored first in eight out nine games against the Braves. Frankly, the Braves are lucky they are only down 5-4 in the season series. This offense has to find a way to get an early lead and put some pressure on the Phillies before itâ€™s too late.