First Place Braves 5, IWOTM 2

In the biggest game of the season so far, the Braves rose to the occasion and defeated the Mets 5-2.  As a result, the NL East race is dead even; after 157 games, each team is 98-57. By the way, I’m just kidding about the IWOTM in the headline–this team is not the Mets we are used to from earlier seasons. But it’s still sweet to remember that the Braves have erased a ten and a half game lead.

Actually, this was not just the biggest game of the season, it was probably the biggest regular season game of this millennium.  Although the Braves are in the playoffs no matter what, the reward for winning the division is huge.  A bye in the first round and not facing the Dodgers in the NLDS is worth fighting for.

We had tickets, but for family reasons we couldn’t travel to Atlanta.  Truist was rocking, but I’ve got to say we had a playoff atmosphere at our house.  Instead of joining thousands of rowdy folks in the Battery, we watched the Braves Live pregame show in our living room.  We were ready: just like last October, my wife and I wore our lucky shirts and tried to sit in the right chairs in the right positions.

In the pregame show, Brian Jordan asserted that the only way to beat deGrom is to shorten your swing and don’t try to hit homers; let the ball get deep, and guide it to the opposite field.  I’m glad BJ is not the hitting coach. Hasn’t he been watching this team all year? As Snitker often says, “We hit homers—that’s who we are.”

And so they did again Friday night.  Three solo homers—back to back jacks by Riley and Olson in the second, and a solo shot by Dansby in the sixth, gave the Braves a 3-1 lead.  This was the first time deGrom had given up three home runs in a start in over three years.  But that’s what this team does.

Mighty Max, Pontifex Maximus, Varsity Fried was on the hill for the Braves in a matchup of Certifiable Aces.  Both managers had manipulated the rotations so that these two would face off in the first game of the series. As we all learned later on, Max was feeling the effects of a stomach bug.  He got through the first unscathed, but he surrendered the game’s first run in the top of the second.  The Mets got that run on three singles.  But two of those were fly balls in front of Eddie Rosario—and both should have been caught.  The leadoff hit by McNeill was a catchable bloop that Eddie must have lost in the lights.  The RBI single was a soft liner that he got to with a slide, but it bounced off his glove.

The B2B’s to lead off the bottom of the second were thrilling.  That was the moment that I most wished I had been there in person.  After falling behind deGrom, the place had gotten quiet.  It wasn’t hard to imagine that one run lead holding up through seven or eight innings of deGrom dominance, followed by a nasty inning or two by Diaz to close it out.

Oh ye of little faith.  On the second pitch of the inning, Riley crushed a hanging slider over the fence in straight away center.  Olson, on a 3-1 count, destroyed a 99 mph fastball, 430 ft right center.  All of a sudden the Braves had the lead and all’s right with the world. 

The Braves never relinquished that lead. After the shaky second, Max was magnificent.  He retired the next ten Mets he faced, and was at 71 pitches through five innings.  I was figuring at this rate we’d get perhaps two more innings out of him.  But during the bottom of the fifth, the TV showed McHugh warming up with some urgency in the pen.  Then they quickly showed a shot of Fried grabbing a trash can and sticking his face into it.  That’s when we al learned he’d been fighting the stomach problem the whole game, and it finally got the best of him.

I love Max Fried’s determination on the mound.  Five innings of one run ball was a terrific performance under the circumstances.  McHugh and Iglesias pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh, respectively.  By that time, the lead was 3-1, thanks to the Swanson solo shot in the bottom of the sixth.  Lt. Dans took a 98 mph heater that was around his knees deep to left.

In the bottom of the seventh, Tylor (sic) Megill (sic) came on for the Mets.  Olson led off line drive single—Matt’s back!  D’Arnaud doubled to the gap in right center.  Runners second and third, no out, infield in.  Contreras popped to first, no advance.  Rosario needs to get a flyball to outfield.  At the time he signed Eddie, AA said he did so because of his bat to ball skills. The Braves have a lot of guys with power who strike out a lot, but sometimes you need someone who can put the ball in play. Eddie came through on a fly ball deep enough to score Olson and send Travis to third.  Then an Arcia a double to right center drove in the fifth run.

Those extra runs came in handy.  AJ Minter gave up a solo homer to Nido in the eighth to make it 5-2.  Would this be a sufficient Kenley Kushion?  Well, Jansen struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the 5-2 win and earn his league leading 38th save.

But if you were watching, you know that is far from the whole story.  Jansen gave us the drama we’ve come to expect. He struck out Lindor to open the inning.  But Canha did what he does best—he leaned over the plate and let an inside pitch hit him in the arm.  A  single by McNeill (our announcers can’t resist calling him “pesky” and I think they are right) and walk to Escobar loaded the bases.  The go ahead run is now at the plate in the person of young Francisco Alvarez. He’s the number one prospect in baseball, just called up and making his big league debut in the biggest game the Mets have played in years.  What a story line!  The kid is thinking grand slam, and he’s swinging from his heels.  Fortunately, the veteran Jansen carved him up for a strikeout and the second out.  With the game on the line, Jansen also struck out Tyler Naquin, although not before he fouled off about 77 pitches.  It may not have been quite that many but it seemed that way.  Two of them were foul tips that Travis couldn’t quite hold, and another was a pop that just got over the screen.  Jansen kept pumping strikes and finally got the swing and miss to seal the game. 

Did you notice the phrase “so far” in the very first sentence of this recap?  Tonight’s game will be even bigger.  Although the standings show that the race is tied, because of the tie breaker rules in effect this season, you might as well think of the Mets still having a one game lead.  The Braves really need a sweep; if they do, the division will be all but theirs.  Taking two of three in the series will leave the standings tied with three to play, but the Mets would control their own destiny, as the cliché has it.

So we need to do it again tonight. Twenty game winner Kyle Wright against Hall of Famer Max Scherzer.  I may be there in person, but if not, I will be in my living room, wearing the same lucky shirt, and sitting in the same lucky chair.  You can’t take any chances when October baseball rolls around.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

59 thoughts on “First Place Braves 5, IWOTM 2”

  1. Well written. I didn’t get home and turn it on until the 5th. Seeing Max replaced had me worried, didn’t understand why. Glad it’s only a bug. He’s nails.

    The sounds of the ballpark from Olson’s homer. Wow!

  2. Awesome recap to an awesome game. Tonight’s game against Scherzer scares me. On a positive note, Lee and Stephens seem to be back to where they were earlier in the year. I think we’ll need them. It was curious that Bracho was warming up to replace Jansen if needed. Hopefully the Braves see something in him similar to what they saw in Lee last year.

  3. Captured the atmosphere in the ballpark really well, tfloyd. Great game to attend, hope you’ll be able to make it tonight. Got a little too tense there in the end. My Garmin watch showed my heart rate close to 120 there in the end. That can’t be healthy, right Kenley?!

  4. Great recap as always, tfloyd. Re lucky shirts and chairs, is there a pattern of Fried doing really well in big games when facing physical troubles? I don’t know that we need anyone to stomp on his ankle again or tamper with his food, but if he winds up facing Alcantara in a crucial game 162, maybe someone could give him the flu or jam a finger on his glove hand or something. Just in case it’s not coincidence, it can’t hurt (much).

  5. Exceptional stuff.

    I think Max is a classic big-game pitcher. He thrives off the intensity.

  6. Well-done.

    One down. Tonight’s game should be a nut-cutter, but I have faith.

    For those headed to Truist, sounds like big fun — have a blast. (Prost, Timo!)

    As an appetizer to tonight’s concurrent Braves/UGA festivities, I’m headed to the The Bronx to maybe see some history. Looks like the weather will allow us to get in this 1:05 start, the O’s got eliminated last night & now there’s no more reason to automatically walk #99.

    Go Braves.

  7. Why spend 20 mil on a guy going 9-6 in 30 starts … 4.3 Era. Bank that only for a front line guy. DeGrom will be available .. we just wasted 20 mil … bad move

  8. @10-finding the small dark cloud on a sunny day, as always.

    As to Morton, I’m sure the Braves have examined his season closely, and they see a guy who still throws as hard as he ever has and gets as much movement on his curve as ever. It’s true that the results haven’t been there; his command has been off. But they must believe the problem is fixable and perhaps a lingering effect of the broken leg. They may be miscalculating here–this season may be evidence of an irreversible age-related decline. But they have more information than we do. In any event, I cannot imagine AA would spend the $40 million/year it would take to sign deGrom.

  9. Wow, what a game last night! I didn’t know why Fried was pulled so early and am glad to hear that it was just a stomach bug. Really impressive how well he pitched considering he shut down the Mets for 5 (only run that scored was 100% on Rosario) while being sick enough to puke in the dugout after coming off the mound the last time.

    Also – holy smokes that Olson home run in the 2nd inning was SOOOO good to see! He was patient, got the count in his favor, got his pitch and absolutely launched it. That was the Matt Olson the Braves were hoping for when they traded for him.

    Even with that huge win last night, the Braves still have an uphill battle to win the NL East – we’re tied with 5 games to go, if we win one of the final two of the Mets series then the Mets have clinched the season head to head record tiebreaker and then finish out their season at home vs. Washington while ATL is @ Miami… in which case we’d need to win more @ Miami than the Mets do vs. Washington. However, if the Braves sweep the Mets we’re in an excellent position – up by 2 games and holding the tiebreaker. At that point we’d just need to win 1 game in Miami to clinch the division. This is indeed the most important regular season series in a looooong time in Atlanta.

  10. @14 Agree, Fried was very impressive especially considering, likely due to his big, he hit max 93 with his FB, from what I saw. He has just so many weapons. Huge performance. With a decent LF defender, he does not give up a run. Though gotta say, people love Eddie or at least love shouting his name.

  11. Agreed about Olson. Over his past month of miserableness, he was missing a lot of hittable pitches. But on that one, he worked the count to 3-1 and jumped all over that 99 mph heater. That’s a great sign.

  12. If you take Morton’s first 5 starts out, he has a 3.88 ERA. He definitely gets a pass having come off his injury. Since June 17th, he has a 3.52 ERA. So I get where the Braves are coming from, but I’d still rather let someone else pay him $20M for when he inevitably falls off a cliff.

    RE: Swanson discussion from the other day

    With Swanson coming back to earth over the last couple months (.231/.272/.387 in the last 50 games), I find his return much more likely. He’s much easier to value now that his production this year is more similar to his career numbers. I remember in July DOB was saying that the .860+ OPS Dansby was the new and permanent Dansby, and obviously that wasn’t true. With that said, offense being so down means that Dansby’s nearly identical OPS to last year still has him at a 112 OPS+ vs. last year’s 99 OPS+. So he’s still one of the most valuable players on the field, but at least he’s not on that 8-9 WAR pace that he was on earlier in the year that would have made a negotiation almost impossible. Like how can you possibly try to fairly pay a guy you think is a 5-6 WAR player when he just turned in a 8 WAR season? That’s tough.

  13. On the Morton contract, something that occurred to me is that it’s got to be a nice relief for him to go into the postseason with a massive vote of confidence for the team, rather than worrying or wondering what they’d do. For a guy with a past history of being in his own head at times, I would think that a big reason to give him the money now is to try to increase the chance of him pitching effectively over the next couple of weeks.

    After all, if he comes up with a couple of big starts, that’s easily worth a few million bucks or more, and I would count that into the $20 million they just committed to him.

  14. Very good point, Alex. What better way of saying, “we’re behind you,” than handing you 20 million bucks. It can only help.

  15. Also, re: Dansby, I like the guy and I’ve defended him for a while — and as charter member of the “I think he’s going to turn out like Edgar Renteria” club, I’d say this year has proved me right.

    That said, I don’t automatically accept that this is his new level of performance. The last three years have been by far the best of his career: in 2020, he was worth about two wins in just 60 games, which prorates to something like five wins over a full season, similar to what he’s done this year. Last year, he was worth about 3.5 wins per Fangraphs.

    Worth pointing out that B-Ref uses Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, which thought his glove was bad last year, and so it rated his performance at just around 2.0 wins, while Fangraphs uses Ultimate Zone Rating, which likes his glove better. Since his bat is the weaker part of his game, it’s worth scrutinizing his glove; his career-best performance this year is actually largely driven by what UZR sees as a career-best performance with the glove. (Ironically, BIS saw his career-best defensive performance as occurring in 2018, when UZR thought he was just slightly above average.)

    Defense tends to erode far faster than offense, so I’d be very hesitant to view his current performance as a new established level. He was replacement-level in 2017, and roughly a two-win player in 2018 and 2019, and since then he’s been a 4-6 win player. This offseason, he’ll turn 29 and he’ll get a long-term free agent contract, and he’ll be on the wrong side of 30 after just the first year of the contract.

    Frankly, I see him as more of a four-win player than a six-win player, given that both the offense and defense spiked to their highest-ever levels, and I’d price him accordingly.

  16. @19: If you’re behind me Rob, I’d accept 1/20th of that. (I won’t let you down. Promise.)

  17. Can this game start already? If I’m wandering around Twitter while watching uninteresting college football games, the universe needs to align better with my needs.

    OK… this made me chuckle.

  18. I’m pretty old, and I’m getting close to retirement. If my employer would pay me lots of money over the next couple of years, I’m sure I’d do a very good job for them.

    I’m being a smartass. I agree with Alex that the contract for Morton is good for several reasons. It is a risk given his age, but he could turn out to be a good value. You can’t have too much good starting pitching.

  19. We all know Alex’s position, which I believe can be succinctly stated as: “It isn’t my $20 million.” That said:
    (1) Say what you want about Liberty. They have a theory behind every dollar they want to spend. They decided they had this $20 million. Who are we to say they didn’t?
    (2) Whatever their aggregate expected payroll next year, $20 million, while not rounding error, is, we already know, not make-or-break should another need develop.
    (3) If you want to make the case that Morton is keeping (Soroka, Elder, Muller, Anderson: pick one) out of the 2023 rotation you are free to make that case. But I’m quite confident that all four of those guys will get opportunities to prove that they need to stick around. And yes, they’d all be cheaper than Morton. But better?
    (4) Following up on what tfloyd said, too much good starting pitching is what my father used to call (in another context) “rich people’s problems.”

  20. I like the Morton signing. Can’t have too much quality pitching. Unless he is getting injured, I think he’ll be worth it. Also, this is still a very young pitching staff. Won’t hurt their development to have Chuck around.

    Oh an PS: In AA i trust.

  21. Two guys just randomly appeared in an old phone booth on my back deck. Claimed to travel through time. They both appeared rather stoned…but nevertheless, they assured me that the old Mets would show up in the next two games. And the Braves would win the division in the most EXCELLENT fashion.

    and for good measure…

    Ted: “The lady in that car over there said that Marco Polo was in the year 1275.”
    Bill: “It’s not just a water sport. I knew it!”

  22. $20 million is a lot to pay for veteran leadership, but given what seems like the effect he’s had on our other guys, perhaps it is worth it. It’s just every five days. I am far more skeptical of paying the money to Swanson. I’m in the middle of the Bama/Arkansas game so I don’t have time to look it up, but it seems he’d be the low man on the pole with all of the SS on the market this off-season and yet his agency (whom we know all too well) will want top dollar for him (as they should.) Given what others have already suggested, he might do better with a few more days off, but I’m not willing to break the bank at the whim of this manager (whom I greatly appreciate with or without his flaws as such.)

    A great victory last night and a great recap today! Let us see more of those in this last week of the season. We don’t want none of those negative waves, Moriarty. (Also…get some glasses, Rosario!)

  23. Don’t these guys who are jabbering about Big 10 football on Fox Sports realize that something much more important is about to begin in Atlanta?

  24. These guys will make you throw pitches. Kyle’s gotta get after them and not let them drag ABs out.

  25. Our guys have hit a lot of balls hard off Scherzer. Many right at people and a couple just foul.

  26. Terrible inning by Wright. The 0-2 pitch and a couple of hangers the third time through the lineup.

  27. @47–Iglesias has been phenomenal. But we will all get to suffer through the Jansen Jitters. Snit will go with Kardiac Kenley in the 9th.

  28. Oh great- Kenley…was thinking he threw too many pitches last night and would be unavailable

  29. Well, I may have given up on the division prematurely….
    Way to go braves, please don’t choke tomorrow after beating degrom and scherzer

  30. Wish I was here tomorrow. Two absolutely amazing evenings. Met great Braves Fans. Go Braves!

    Who is leading the division?

  31. Braves win two games in which the Mets starter is considered better
    Can they do it a third time
    Morton can earn some of this years 20 mill They say he is a playoff dude Well this is a most similar situation Braves win tomorrow they win the division
    No pressure on Charlie Right

  32. @51 after winning these two games I don’t think a loss tomorrow would be a “choke”. The last time we faced Bassitt was at home with Charlie on the mound and we lost. We only got one run off of Bassitt – an Olson HR. Charlie gave up 3 HRs.

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