On Friday night, the Braves clinched the division. On Saturday night, they used a half-strength lineup to blow out the opposition. On Sunday afternoon, they dropped the finale. C’est la baseball vie. With their final regular season home game of 2019 going down in the ledger as a loss, the Braves now turn their sights to a brief road trip, and then, to the National League Division Series.
On the pitching side, this game was like an amalgam of the various Dallas Keuchel starts the Braves have experienced this year. Keuchel cruised through some frames and danced in and out of trouble in others, but kept the Giants off the board through five innings. But, in the sixth, with the Giants seeing him a third time on the afternoon, things unraveled, as they so often do.
Coming into this game, Keuchel’s splits by times through the order:
- 1st: .297 xwOBA, .262 wOBA, 3.59 FIP, 3.35 xFIP
- 2nd: .314 xwOBA, .322 wOBA, 4.32 FIP, 3.79 xFIP
- 3rd: .372 xwOBA, .397 wOBA, 6.53 FIP, 4.97 xFIP
Keuchel was already through five scoreless with a few score of pitches under his belt, having successfully bounced back from a homer-prone outing against the Phillies, but was left in to (I guess) approach the 100-pitch plateau. He allowed a hard single to Mike Yastrzemski to lead off the inning, and looked like he might wriggle out of it when Austin Slater hit a grounder to short but then beat out the relay throw at first to preclude a twin killing. That set up a hard-hit opposite-field double by Evan Longoria over the head of Matt Joyce to score the first run of the game. Dansby Swanson then misplayed a grounder to allow the next batter to reach, which set up a bloop double to left by Joey Rickard that evaded a diving Nick Markakis’ glove, making it 3-0 in favor of San Francisco.
Keuchel finished his outing having allowed six hits and two walks in six frames, with four strikeouts. Luke Jackson came on for the seventh and yielded another run on three singles, with Longoria again the damage-dealer on a shallow bloop to center. Jerry Blevins (for one batter), Shane Greene, and Mark Melancon (facing his former team) finished out the pitching ledger for the Braves.
Offensively, meanwhile, an Atlanta lineup missing Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Josh Donaldson could not get much going against righty Logan Webb. They didn’t get a hit until the third (Billy Hamilton), and didn’t get a runner to second until a fifth inning mini-rally consisting of two one-out walks to Joyce and Tyler Flowers. However, Hamilton and Keuchel struck out, the former looking on a pitch down the middle, and the decision to leave Keuchel in the game turned sour in the next half-inning.
The Braves finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, as Adeiny Hechavarria tripled off the center-field fence and scored on a Freddie Freeman groundout. Freeman would later leave the game with a continuation of his elbow troubles, and was replaced at first base by Francisco Cervelli. Freeman will likely stay in Atlanta rather than travel to Kansas City, and then rejoin the team in New York, per Mark Bowman.
Freeman’s elbow bothered him again today. He’ll stay in Atlanta during the KC series and then meet the Braves before Friday’s series opener at Citi Field.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) September 22, 2019
Webb had a positive outing for the Giants, allowing just two hits, two walks, and the lone run in six frames, to go along with seven punchouts. Tyler (not Taylor) Rogers came on for the Giants for the seventh and eighth, and proved similarly tough to handle, as the Braves stranded a two-out Flowers double and a leadoff pinch-hit single from Adam Duvall. Will Smith (not that one, or the other one) then came on for the ninth and threw a final zero on the board, but not before Ozzie Albies made an appearance and garnered a pinch-hit single.
While the game featured relatively little offense or oomph in the box score, that’s actually somewhat of a disservice to how well batters were striking the ball — it just wasn’t carrying. Keuchel allowed two barreled balls with exit velocities above 106 and 101 mph, respectively — both were caught near the fence. Dansby Swanson nearly hit a third-inning pitch from Webb out of the park, but he didn’t quite pull it enough and it went for a harmless flyout. Hechavarria’s triple was basically a homer to any other part of the park, but it went to dead center and just missed clearing the wall. There were 10 balls hit at 100+ mph in the contest, and only five of them resulted in safeties. There were another five at 97.6 mph or harder, and all of them went for o-fers (including an error). But hey, it happens, and the Braves are just killing time at this point until the NLDS begins.