The Braves salvaged the final game of their series with the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon by a 4-1 score, but the story about this game will be that Sean Newcomb nearly, nearly granted the home team their first no hitter since Kent Mercker’s no-no in April 1994. Newcomb’s outing was perfect through six and was marred only by a leadoff walk to Yasiel Puig in the seventh... until Chris Taylor hit a single through the left side to give Los Angeles their first hit of the game.
Aside from the disappointing result, the game was all Braves. Facing Ross Stripling for the second time this season, the Braves went to work quickly: Freddie Freeman hit a two-out single in the first, and scored standing up as Nick Markakis slashed a liner into the left-field corner. Two pitches later, Kurt Suzuki yanked a curveball on the plate’s outer edge into that same corner for another RBI double. Markakis was then in the middle of run-scoring action again in the third, as he drilled a two-run homer into right field after an Ozzie Albies leadoff single.
That was it, offensively, for the Braves. While Stripling allowed seven hits and a walk in just four innings in total, he struck out five and the Braves stranded runners (including Inciarte twice) in his other innings of work. Dodgers relievers Daniel Hudson and Erik Goeddel each pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Stripling, allowing just one hit and one walk in the game’s last four innings.
The story of this game, however, was just Sean Newcomb. After a long stretch from mid-June onward in which he massively struggled, Newcomb switched over to an approach that heavily emphasized his fastball (moreso than usual) and minimized usage of his curveball. Newcomb’s first curve of the game came against Stripling in the third for a called strike three; he threw only three other curves through seven, and one of those saw him strike out Taylor in the sixth. Even as he got late into his third time through the Dodgers’ lineup he only used a few more curves, and mixed in a few sliders against Cody Bellinger, one of which struck him out. He stayed mostly fastball the whole way, and Taylor’s heartbreaking single came on a fastball on the up-and-in corner of the zone.
Newcomb threw 134 pitches in the outing, the most for an MLB starter since Mike FIers’ no-hitter in 2015. He may require an extra day or two before his next turn in the rotation to recover. After he departed following Taylor’s single, the Braves tabbed Dan WInkler to clean up the game. Winkler allowed an RBI single to Manny Machado (Taylor had moved to second on defensive indifference), and then got Matt Kemp to ground out to third to end the game. Kemp went 0-fer in the series, a small bit of vengeful consolation given that the Braves lost the first three games in nearly-uncontested fashion.
Thanks to the Phillies losing tonight, the Braves move back to within 1.5 games of the division lead. They’ll hope for more pitching production going forward as they welcome the Marlins to SunTrust Park tomorrow night.
For now, enjoy the win and the near no-hitter, Braves fans. You’ll have to wait longer for an actual one, but today was fun (and reminiscent of Shelby Miller’s similar outing against the Marlins in 2015).