Eddie Rosario topped off his outstanding series with a two-out, ninth-inning grand slam Sunday afternoon at Chase Field in Phoenix, flipping a would-be 5-4 Braves loss to a thrilling 8-5 comeback win. The timely clout also turned a poor 2-4 road trip into a respectable 3-3 one, giving the Braves the series over the resurgent Diamondbacks.
Down 5-4 entering the final frame, the Braves had the right part of the order coming up against Arizona closer Miguel Castro. They had also seen him well in a losing effort on Friday night, with Travis d’Arnaud just barely missing a go-ahead homer that would’ve turned the tide. Michael Harris walked and Ronald Acuna ripped a single to right to start the proceedings, and Acuna stole second to put the go-ahead runs into scoring position. Matt Olson struck out looking, though, and after an intentional walk of Austin Riley, d’Arnaud lined out to the shortstop for out No. 2. Up stepped Rosario, though, who had already hit two homers in this series. He took a 1-0 sinker that dropped right into the center of the plate and golfed it just over a desperately-leaping Pavin Smith at the right-field fence.
Raisel Iglesias mowed down the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the inning to secure his seventh save. It capped a very good day for the Atlanta pen, as they kept the team in the game with 6.1 scoreless innings of work. Braves relievers allowed just one measly hit and two walks over that stretch, which included the debut of AJ Smith-Shawver. The young rookie went 2.1 hitless innings with a walk and three punchouts, and looked very much like a potential solution in the bullpen. A.J. Minter and Collin McHugh also pitched well, and Minter got the win for the outstanding work of technically still being in the game when the Braves took the lead (he did get out of a little jam in the eighth, to his credit).
The one Rosario swing turned the entire outlook of the road trip around. Without it, we lose a series in Oakland somehow and then follow that up with a series loss in Arizona. With it, we erase the bad taste of the Oakland mess with a series victory over one of the best teams in the National League (if you go by record anyway).
It also cleansed the palate after a tough start by Michael Soroka. He allowed five runs on seven hits over 3.2 innings, walking four and allowing two homers. He just honestly didn’t look like he had anything working today. He fell behind 3-1 in a third inning in which he set the first two men down in order. He got out of it and watched his team come back to tie the game for him in the fourth. He got the first two outs quickly again in the fourth, then proceeded to allow a walk and a two-run homer. It was just that kind of day.
Ozzie Albies provided the big blow in that fourth inning with a two-run, ceiling-scraping home run to tie the game.
The next batter was Marcell Ozuna and, boy oh boy, he apparently couldn’t stand prosperity in terms of his standing with the fanbase. He launched a ball 415 feet (according to Statcast anyway) to straightaway center and stood on the plate gawking at his obviously mammoth home run for an extended period. This wouldn’t have normally been a problem except for complete scolds. But this game was played at Chase Field, and the center-field wall is between 407 and 413 feet away at Chase Field…not to mention absurdly tall. The ball bounced off the railing just below the yellow line and Ozuna had a 415-foot single instead of his home run. As it turned out, that might have cost the Braves a run on the back end if you look at how the inning played out after that. In any case, this display did not impress Brian Snitker, and Ozuna was lifted from the game prior to his next at-bat.
I’m all for “let the kids play,” for the record, but I refuse to give up the right to criticize a player when he makes an idiot of himself in this fashion. You know that it’s Arizona and that the center field boundary is very deep and very high. Act accordingly. I have no problem with virtually any antics after a home run, but if it’s not a home run and you’re caught posing at home plate when you should be on second base? Yeah, I’ve got a problem with that.
In any case, we’ll have to see whether this situation lingers at all going forward. I don’t expect that it will, but it’s a thing that happened in this game. And it looked for awhile like the Braves would lose this game by a run.
The Braves now head home with a 3.5-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East. (And I refuse to do what all the beat writers are doing and act like the Mets are really in second place and the Marlins don’t count, by the way.) The 35-24 mark sported by our Braves is currently the best record in the National League. So even if the last few weeks have been a little bumpy, it’s not like things are going badly. Just something to keep in mind.
The Braves return home this week for three against the team who is not currently in second place in the NL East and three against the Nationals (who also aren’t in second place in the East).