The Braves stretched their record to 6-2 on the current home stand Tuesday night, eking out a 5-1 victory against the division rival Marlins. Atlanta’s record now goes to 75-52, and with the Nationals’ loss against the Pirates, the lead in the NL East is now six games, and the magic number is down to 31.
After slumping over the weekend, Freddie Freeman put the team on his back tonight, going 3-for-4 and driving in four runs. The four RBI let him pull ahead of Boston’s Rafael Devers for the MLB lead, and put him within seven of tying his career high. The two home runs he hit tonight put him at 33, one off his career high. He is a legitimate candidate to reach the 40 home run plateau for the first time in his career.
Dallas Keuchel had his second consecutive solid start, going six strong innings and allowing one run, while striking out seven and only walking two. This was an especially refreshing outing against the Marlins, considering he was battered around the last time he faced them. His mound mate, Elieser Hernandez, didn’t fare quite as well as Keuchel, though his line won’t show it. Rather, Hernandez struggled mightily to keep the ball in the strike zone and out of the batter’s box.
Stop me if you’ve heard it before - the Marlins hit Ronald Acuña, Jr. on the first pitch of a game. Warnings were issued for both teams, and upon protesting the ludicrousness of the situation, Brian Snitker was tossed. This was Snitker’s 12th career ejections, and he now trails Bobby Cox by 149. Truth be told, he appeared to hold himself together pretty well for longer than most of us would have, but once the situation boiled over, Snit earned himself an early exit.
Keuchel struck out Hernandez in the third inning, which is in itself not an amazing feat - but it was the 1,000th of Keuchel’s career, and he rightfully received a nice ovation from the home crowd. Four pitches later, however, Jon Berti homered into the right center field seats, staking the Marlins to a 1-0 lead.
In a bit of unpleasant news, Brian McCann left the game after the third inning and was replaced by Tyler Flowers. The team announced McCann’s departure was related to left knee soreness, and was merely precautionary - hopefully meaning a stint on the Injured List will not be required. However, as Alex Jackson was removed from Gwinnett’s game shortly thereafter, it could signal some time on the shelf for B-Mac.
In the fourth inning, Freeman tied the game at 1 when he decided it would be fun to do this:
Later in the inning, the tempers from the first inning started to flare again. After Matt Joyce doubled to right, Hernandez plunked Adeiny Hechavarria on the elbow, but he was inexplicably allowed to stay in the game. Walt Weiss (acting as manager after Snitker’s dismissal) emerged from the dugout to ask how the umpire could possibly allow Hernandez to stay in the game, but the call stood.
I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure I heard Brian Snitker rage-flip a table in the clubhouse.
Coming into the fifth inning, Don Mattingly opted to pull Hernandez for what was later revealed to be a blister on his middle finger (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up). As Tyler Kinley came on in relief, Freddie Freeman used another long ball to put the Braves up 2-1.
As Freddie crossed home plate, his RBI total went to triple digits for only the second time in his career.
The seventh inning saw the Braves pour it on a little more, this time off Marlins reliever Austin Brice. After Acuña, Jr. hit a one-out double and Ozzie Albies reached on an error by Isan Diaz (then stole second), Freddie continued his hot night by lashing a two-run single into left field for his third and fourth RBI of the night. Before the inning was over, a single from Matt Joyce stretched the lead to 5-1.
Recent waiver claim Billy Hamilton made his Braves debut tonight, pinch hitting in the seventh and staying on as a defensive replacement. He didn’t get much of a chance to prove it, but he is still fast.
Luke Jackson, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin put up a third consecutive spotless outing for the Braves bullpen, which is - dare I say it? starting to round into form. Each worked an inning, and they totaled six strikeouts with no walks.
Hechavarria, who made an error earlier in the game, atoned for it on the last play of the game. Get a load of this web gem that closed things out:
These two teams will meet again tomorrow night, with a 7:20pm first pitch.