The Braves did exactly what you want to do the day after a drubbing: come right back out on the field and return the favor. Four solo homers and a six-run sixth later, and they came back to earn a series split with one of the NL’s best teams in their home park.
Ender Inciarte had himself a game to remember, and he got the afternoon started in fine fashion, drawing a leadoff walk and stealing second base. Unfortunately, he couldn’t advance past third, and the Braves’ scoring chances were thwarted. That brought on Lucas Sims, making his third start, and Sims had a really weird outing. That weirdness started in the first, as he should have gone 1-2-3 to start his day, but instead surrendered a two-out “double” to Nolan Arenado on a ball that Danny Santana egregiously misplayed in left field by breaking in and then stopping despite the fact that the ball’s trajectory was carrying it over his head. After a four-pitch walk to cleanup hitter Gerardo Parra, Sims got Jonathan Lucroy to roll out to end the inning.
The second inning started with a bang, as Tyler Flowers opened the scoring with his tenth dinger of the year on a drive to right center. With one out, Ozzie Albies displayed an effective launch angle (20 degrees!) by lacing a shot off Colorado starter Jeff Hoffman into the right-field gap. The ball rolled and rolled, and Albies notched his first career triple. The Rockies brought the infield in, and Dansby Swanson’s rotten luck continued for one more plate appearance, as he grounded to Arenado at third base, who was able to throw home and thus retire Albies on a fielder’s choice.
The 1-0 lead was shortlived. Sims walked Trevor Story to lead off the bottom of the second, and then Ryan McMahon lifted a changeup to left center. Santana must have gotten a bad break or something, because the ball dropped near the fence without him anywhere near it. The ball wasn’t hit particularly hard (96 mph off the bat) or particularly deep (389 feet of distance), but Santana failed to come up with the 34 percent hit probability play, and the Rockies tied the game on the McMahon double. A few pitches later, Alexi Amarista sheared off a massive slice of his bat on a swinging bunt; with Brandon Phillips playing back, Amarista reached easily, putting runners at the corners. After a sacrifice bunt, Charlie Blackmon hit a roller to first that let McMahon score easily, and just like that, Sims and the Braves found themselves in a 2-1 hole.
But that deficit, too, was shortlived. Ender Inciarte led off the top of the third with a solo home run, and just like that, the game was tied. The Rockies threatened in the bottom of the frame thanks to another leadoff walk and then a really weird play (Dansby Swanson is cursed, I tells ya!) where, on a routine forceout at second, it was ruled he came off the bag too early when making the relay to first. But, Sims got the next three batters in order to preserve the lead for an inning.
Nothing happened in the fourth other than Sims working around a two-out double, which set up Inciarte hitting another leadoff homer, for the second time in three innings. Four pitches later, Freeman followed suit with his 22nd homer of the year, giving the Braves some breathing room and getting Hoffman pulled from the game. Sims completed his night with another scoreless inning. His overall line wasn’t fantabulous: five innings, five hits, two runs, three walks, and two strikeouts. But, he kept the ball in the park, and really would have gone five scoreless had Santana not flubbed it defensively, with fewer hits allowed. He showed good resilience in working out of trouble, and whether intentional or not, kept the ball on the ground in a park where that’s generally a much better idea than letting guys hit it in the air.
Already holding a two-run cushion, the Atlanta bats erupted in the seventh against former Brave Mike Dunn. Inciarte drew another leadoff walk, and stole second before scoring on a Brandon Phillips single. Later in the inning, after a Nick Markakis single and Dunn’s replacement by Adam Ottavino, pinch-hitter Matt Adams roped a weird groundball double into the right-center gap that took a weird bounce off the pitcher’s mound, scoring both runners. The Braves weren’t done yet: after an Albies infield single and his first career stolen base, Dansby Swanson connected for his second career triple (and first this season), driving a fly ball into the spacious expanse of left center. (Poor Charlie Blackmon, he had to go get everything in this inning.) The capper was an RBI single by Lane Adams that ate up Nolan Arenado at third base.
The Rockies got a few garbage time runs off the Atlanta bullpen. Jim Johnson allowed a leadoff double to Blackmon, with Blackmon eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly; in the ninth, Blackmon hit a homer off Jose Ramirez. But, all-in-all, the Braves came away with a much-needed bounceback victory.
Lucas Sims collected his first career win, and as mentioned, Albies collected his first career triple and stolen base. Amazingly, this was not even Inciarte’s first two-homer game this season: he’s hit 40 percent of his homers this year in just two games. He did, however, raise his wRC+ by four points in one game, and, I kid you not, his fWAR by 0.4 (plus or minus park adjustments, defensive adjustments, etc.).
The Reds come to Atlanta tomorrow night, and R.A. Dickey will face something called a Sal Romano to start the series.