Will Smith threw a hitless 9th to pick up his 35th save.

After walking the bases loaded, and with a little help from the home plate umpire. A couple of borderline strike calls on Fernando Tatis and Trent Grisham were the difference for Smith between 14 strikes out of 31 pitches, and 12. Smith ultimately struck out the side; Tatis with runners on 1st and 2nd, and Grisham and Ha-seong Kim consecutively with the bases loaded.

Coupled with today’s Phillies loss to the Pirates, the Braves open a 2.5 game lead going into the pivotal and long anticipated penultimate series against Philadelphia, starting Tuesday in Atlanta. The Braves take 3 in a row from the Padres, the road portion of the 2021 schedule is concluded, and the magic number stands at 5.

If you’ve been paying any attention the last few weeks, the words “Bullpen Game” should terrify you, and that should continue to be the case. The Braves tried to get a second inning out of Jacob Webb in the 4th, and he coughed up a 3 – 0 Braves lead. Despite recording 8 otherwise scoreless innings, the bullpen was not inspiring. Drew Smyly gave up 2 hits and 1 walk in his 1 2/3 innings, Richard Rodriguez sandwiched a hit between his 2 outs, and Tyler Matzek gave up 2 hits and 1 walk while recording 3 outs. Will Smith, see above.

On the bright side, Jesse Chavez started for the Braves and gave up 1 hit in his 1 1/3 innings, and Luke Jackson bailed out Matzek in the 7th, striking out Kim with 2 runners on, and ended with o hits and 1 walk in 1 1/3 innings.

A.J. Minter threw 2 pitches and got the win.

Joc Pederson got a start Sunday in place of Adam Duvall, which meant that he owed us a home run, and he delivered in the 2nd inning to put the Braves up 1 – 0. The Braves added 2 more in the 4th on doubles by Austin Riley and Travis d’Arnaud, and a 2 out pinch hit bloop single from Ehire Adrianza. The difference maker came in the 6th when Pederson walked and scored on pinch hitter Orlando Arcia‘s double down the right field line. Big help from the bench today.

The Braves are carrying 15 pitchers, and I might trust 6 of them, if you think dominating Arizona means you trust Ian Anderson. But here’s the thing. Add Charlie Morton and Max Fried to that, with Chavez, Matzek, and Jackson, and you might make a playoff run if you can get there.

Anyway, win, win, win. Morton and Zack Wheeler scheduled on Tuesday. Finish them.