The Braves have only played a few March 30 games in history. In 2008, that was date for Opening Day, where the Braves dropped a game in walkoff fashion to the Nationals. Last season, that date held the second game of the year, which the Braves dropped to the Phillies. Today, we focus on the third game, a protracted seesaw battle that the Braves eventually lost to the Phillies in extra innings by a 5-4 score. In other words, there wasn’t even a Braves victory on this date to choose.
How it happened: This was a very exciting, back-and-forth game, and it’s a shame the Braves ended up short by a run. The Phillies drew first blood in the second, as Rhys Hoskins homered off of Mike Foltynewicz. They added another run in the next inning thanks to a weird sequence of catcher’s interference, double, sac fly. But, the Braves then came right back to tie it, thanks to a Ryan Flaherty RBI double and a sacrifice fly from Ender Inciarte.
The Braves took their first lead of the game in the fourth with a really drawn-out rally: Freddie Freeman walked on seven pitches, but was erased on a double play ball from Nick Markakis. Then, Philadelphia starter Nick Pivetta hit Kurt Suzuki with a pitch; Suzuki moved to second on a Preston Tucker single and then scored on a Dansby Swanson single. The Phillies then did the ol’ unintentional intentional walk to Ryan Flaherty in the eight-hole before Pivetta struck out Foltynewicz. It was a 30-pitch inning for Pivetta, and he didn’t come back out for the fifth. However, Carlos Santana hit a two-out homer for the Phils to tie it up at three runs apiece in the very next frame; Foltynewicz’ day was done after five innings.
The game then devolved into a bullpen battle. Gabe Kapler once again inserted Hoby Milner to face Freddie Freeman, and the result this go-around was a five-pitch walk and not a homer, but Milner retired Markakis to end the inning. The Braves were, at this point, still hellbent on giving Jose Ramirez (pitching version) opportunities despite a very blah track record, even for a reliever, and Ramirez coughed up another run courtesy of a leadoff walk that ended up scoring on a two-out single. After that, the scoring abated until the bottom of the eighth, when Freeman drew a leadoff walk and scored on Tucker’s two-out single.
And then, something wild happened.
The ruling on the field actually gave the Braves a very short-lived lead after Dansby Swanson’s would-have-been RBI double into the left-field corner. However, pinch-runner Peter Bourjos, who got $1 million to basically play a month for the Braves and do stuff like pinch-run for slow guys (like Preston Tucker), appeared to totally botch his slide home by failing to get his foot down on the plate. The result was a 4-4 tie and the Braves running themselves (well, sliding themselves) out of an inning.
Neither team could score in the ninth. Arodys Vizcaino gave Braves fans palpitations by allowing back-to-back one-out walks, but struck out Hoskins to put the Braves in walkoff territory. But, Hector Neris was apparently none worse for the damage dealt to him by the Markakis walkoff homer the prior day, and worked a 1-2-3 12-pitch inning. In the tenth, Shane Carle and Drew Hutchison traded scoreless frames, and Carle returned to the mound in the top of the 11th. Unfortunately for the Braves, Carle allowed three straight one-out liners to the Phillies, which went single, single, sac fly to score the eventual winning run.
On the flip side, Hutchison did not fare as poorly in his second inning of work as Carle. The Braves had run out of position players, so Carle had to bat for himself with one out and struck out looking. (He did, however, foul off two pitches.) Down to their last out, the Braves avoided doom for a bit thanks to a Ryan Flaherty single and Charlie Culberson getting plunked, but Inciarte hit a can of corn into center to end the game.
Game MVP: Drew Hutchison pitched two scoreless innings in walkoff territory, which was pretty impressive. The rest of the season didn’t go quite so well for him, as he was DFAed after two months in the Philly bullpen and bounced around two other organizations for the rest of the year, but he thwarted the Braves’ bid for a 2-0 start in this one.
Game LVP: Probably Peter Bourjos’ slide. Another possibility is the weird confluence of events that forced the Braves to run out of position players in nine innings in this one, which led to Shane Carle batting for himself, as well as giving three PAs to Chris Stewart when Kurt Suzuki got hit on the hand with a pitch. But yeah, that slide.
Biggest play: Preston Tucker’s two-out game-tying single was huge when it happened, especially given that Chris Stewart had just failed to get Freeman in from third base with one out in the prior PA.
The game, in context of the season: This was really just another back-and-forth between the Braves and Phillies, as went on for much of the season before the Braves kicked their teeth in for good in August. Probably the biggest takeaway for me in this regard is how the 2018 roster for the Braves was really just a collection of weird, misaligned parts not befitting a contending team, and how the Braves just totally ignored that and went ham anyway. Like, this game featured Peter Bourjos doing stuff, Chris Stewart getting playing time as a third catcher inexplicably on the Opening Day roster because of course both Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki got hurt in consecutive games to open the season, Jose Ramirez still pitching meaningful innings, and so on. But not all of that was terrible: Preston Tucker and Ryan Flaherty contributed big in the early going before totally flaming out for the rest of the season.
I want a recap: Here you go.
No, I said I want a recap, it’s not like I have actual baseball to watch: Behold!
Anything else of note? 2018 was a breakout season for both Foltynewicz and Pivetta, the starters in this game, but you wouldn’t really know it from this particular box score. Foltynewicz had a nice 7/1 K/BB ratio in this one but got burned by allowing two homers. Pivetta only lasted four innings with a mediocre 3/2 K/BB ratio, but would immediately go on to allow just five runs in his next four starts, with a 25/2 K/BB ratio. Curiously, both Foltynewicz and Pivetta would crash hard the following season.
This game also featured just a lot of weird stuff. Freddie Freeman went first-to-third on a groundout before scoring on that two-out, game-tying Tucker single. A fan beat the Freeze. Scott Kingery made his debut, got his first major league hit, and nearly got punched by an umpire making an exaggerated “you’re out” motion during a play in the field. Peter Bourjos was bad at sliding. Gabe Kapler used a challenge on whether a runner left third base early on a sacrifice fly. Peter Moylan picked Rhys Hoskins off first base. The second-inning homer by Hoskins is his highest-ever xwOBA on a ball to date, given its 110 mph exit velocity and 28 degree launch angle.
Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about March 30: Two extremities of the United States are tied into this date. In 1822, the U.S. combined the former West Florida and East Florida territories into a single Florida territory that would eventually become a state more than two decades later. (Florida itself was acquired in the Adams-Onis treaty in 1819, but the treaty didn’t take effect until it was ratified years later.) 45 years later, Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. As a random fun fact in American historiography, while many students are taught that this purchase was widely maligned, hence “Seward’s folly” being something that appears in many U.S. history textbooks, it was actually pretty widely supported at the time.