Well, that was quite a game. In a crazy, back-and-forth game where things looked bleak at least three different times, Atlanta pulled out an 8-7, 11-inning victory that kept them a game-and-a-half back in the race for the NL East.
It seemed to be a clear, blue day when the game started out. The box score has it at 70 degrees and partly cloudy at first pitch. Chip and Jeff were commenting on what a fantastic day it was weather-wise. And yes, the fact that I’m mentioning this might serve as foreshadowing of some sort.
The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Philadelphia came to the plate. Travis d’Arnaud doubled home Michael Harris on a routine fly ball that Phillies center fielder Brandon Marsh somehow tracked all the way back to the warning track and then lost. Matt Olson then followed with a sharp liner down the right-field line to collect a more standard-issue double, scoring d’Arnaud.
However, Charlie Morton was not fantastic this afternoon. He wound up allowing six runs on six hits and three walks over 4.2 innings. In the first, he allowed a leadoff homer to Kyle Schwarber that kissed the outside of the right-field foul pole. He then allowed three straight baserunners after that, with a Rhys Hoskins double, a Bryce Harper walk and an Alec Bohm single to drive home the tying run. An RBI fielder’s choice followed to give Philly a 3-2 lead.
The Braves tied the game on a two-out RBI single from Dansby Swanson in the second, but Schwarber untied it again with another homer in the third. Dansby continued to keep the Braves afloat in this opening half of the game, bombing another two-out hit in the top of the fourth, this one a two-run homer to straightaway center. That gave Atlanta a 5-4 lead. Morton had a rare uneventful fourth and the Braves maintained their one-run advantage into the bottom of the fifth.
It was at this point that something started to go seriously wrong with the previously idyllic weather in Philly. As the bottom of the fifth started, the broadcast began to show images of giant gust fronts blowing in and downtown Philadelphia getting consumed by angry-looking storm clouds. Getting the game to official status seemed to be an imperative (at least for Chip) until you stopped to remember that all unofficial games now get suspended if they’re unable to be finished. The thing where you have to start the whole game over again is no more. This is a fact which seemed to be lost on Chip and the umpiring crew as the squall bore down on Citizens Bank Park.
Meanwhile, Morton let the first two Philly hitters of the inning aboard and allowed the Phillies to take the lead on back-to-back sacrifice flies from Harper and Bohm. This actually made the game official, as the same principle applies to this as applies to the home team taking the lead in the ninth or extra innings. This was a fact that also seemed lost on Chip and the umpiring crew. The fact that it was lost on Chip was merely bemusing if you were listening to him. The fact that it was lost on the umpires (at least the crew chief) proved more problematic. The storm finally arrived with the game official, and yet the umpires did not take the players off the field. The prodigiously bearded Marsh was at the plate at the time, and Francoeur cracked a joke that he looked like Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” as the wind-swept rain swirled around the field. It was absolutely ridiculous. The umpires eventually had enough with two strikes and two outs and called the grounds crew onto the field, but one wondered about the condition of the field by the time they got the tarp on.
I continued to wonder about this as reports came in that it had stopped raining but the tarp was still on the field, and I then saw this tweet from Mark Bowman:
If they had called the game at this point because the field was unplayable, you’d have found me channeling Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey (at the end of a game I watched during the rain delay):
Thankfully, they did get the field back in order and restarted the game after an over two-hour rain delay. Immediately after the restart, Marsh doubled but the Braves threw out Jean Segura at the plate for the final out of the inning. The replay made the call seem like a break for the Braves, but I guess they didn’t see enough evidence to overturn it.
The 6-5 Philadelphia lead held until the eighth inning. With two outs and nobody on, William Contreras walked and Eddie Rosario doubled against Philly right-hander David Robertson. The Braves pinch-hit the suddenly healthy Ronald Acuna for Vaughn Grissom. Leaving whatever’s going on with Acuna aside (this recap is already running too long), I thought this was a nifty move by Brian Snitker, as it forced Robertson to either face Acuna or the left-handed switch-hitter Robbie Grossman. They elected to walk Acuna and, though the Grossman AB didn’t work out, the Braves got a gift run on a wild pitch to tie the game.
So it stayed going into extra innings. The Braves elicited the sad trombone sound effect in the top of the 10th, scoring nothing. Obviously, this did not bode well. However, enter the inimitable Jackson Stephens, the rare reliever who deserved every bit of the win he was awarded. He intentionally walked Harper to set up the double play to start the 10th, then struck out Bohm, got Jean Segura to ground into a force out, and induced a looping liner to left that Rosario ran down to keep the game alive.
The Braves finally broke through in the 11th. Acuna lined a single to center to score Manfred Man Guillermo Heredia (who pinch-ran for Contreras). The rally continued, as Dansby singled Ronald to third and Harris followed with an opposite-field hit, driving home the all-important follow-up run.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Jackson Stephens came back out for the 11th and proceeded to gas Bryson Stott, get Matt Vierling to harmlessly ground out and rack up two strikes on JT Realmuto. He caught two much of the plate with an 0-2 pitch to Realmuto, who singled home the Manfred Man, but no matter. Stephens closed out probably his best outing of the year by blowing away pinch-hitter Nick Maton to finish off the marathon win.
Maintaining the game-and-a-half deficit seems like it was essential to our division title chances heading into the final full week of the season. We head to Washington for three before going home to host the Mets next weekend. The Mets fly all the way home from Oakland to take on Miami in a short two-game series before heading south.