As Ben put it on the radio call, it wasn’t hard to figure out who got the game ball in this one. Bryce Elder pitched the team’s first complete game of the year, and it also happened to be the team’s first shutout. As a matter of fact, the team’s only two complete games last year were shutouts, too, both by Max Fried, on August 20 and September 24.

As it was, he got six strikeouts, only walked one batter, stayed around the strike zone, got some great defense, and got 27 outs with just 106 pitches. The Nats are basically a Triple-A offense right now; Bryce’s stuff is not overpowering, and a team like the Dodgers or Astros would not let him go nine. But that’s a quibble; according to the team, he’s the first Braves rookie to throw a complete-game shutout since 1990.

Unfortunately, the history there is not entirely favorable — the rookie in question was Paul Marak; that shutout was his only major-league win. He went back to Triple-A Richmond in the miracle year of 1991, where he posted a 5.85 ERA in 172 1/3 innings; he never made it back to the Show. Suffice to say that rookies pitching shutouts are rare. Elder pitched the 15th shutout in the major leagues this year, and only three of them were pitched by rookies: Reid Detmers, Hunter Greene, and Bryce Elder.

Bryce has now made eight major league starts, three against the Marlins and three against the Nationals, and so you might look a mite askance at his 2.76 ERA (albeit slightly less askance at his 3.73 FIP) and think, perhaps the lad has not been sufficiently tested against a playoff-caliber offense.

And, sure. On the other hand, Elder has exactly as many starts for the Braves as Jake Odorizzi, and Elder has pitched 11 more innings and given up 11 fewer runs. At a certain point, it behooves a man to set his brow, purse his lips, and say, “Scoreboard.”

Bryce couldn’t help the team out on the other side of the ball, due to that newfangled designated hitter that they foisted on us, so the other guys in the uniform were forced to help out. All of the scoring occurred in the middle innings.

In the fourth, Olson walloped one, which was good. It was also his only hit of the day, as he walked, struck out, and hit a sac fly in his other plate appearances. In all, a fine day at the office, but it would still be nice to see a few more multihit games from him.

In the fifth, Marcell hit a solo homer; 15 of his 22 homers this year have been solo shots. He also hit an RBI double in the sixth; whatever, his OBP is still .272. Despite the production, he’s still been worth about -1 WAR this year. The “fire him into the sun” logic remains sound.

In the sixth, the offense sort of roared to life. After a leadoff walk from Riley, Michael Harris II singled — his only hit of the day in his first-ever start as cleanup man; he also struck out twice and grounded into a double play, so apparently he’s only human — and promptly stole second, setting up men on second and third for Matt Olson, who connected for a sac fly. William Contreras got plunked, the Nats committed a run-scoring error, Ozuna hit his RBI double, and then Orlando Arcia hit a two-run homer, his first home run since August 3rd.

Thanks to the error, only one of the five runs in the inning was marked as “earned.” Still, when the dust settled, it was 8-0, the offense went back to sleep, and Bryce gave the pen a night off. The Mets had a night off, too, so the Braves are back to being just a single game behind in the standings.

Tonight, Kyle Muller gets his first start since August 13. Something tells me that AA sees this capital city squad as a good soft landing for our rookies to try to establish themselves. Couldn’t agree more. Go get ’em, meat!