For the second straight day, the Atlanta offense showed it has not quite emerged from a longer than expected hibernation. While Mike Soroka flourished on Friday, Max Fried, besides a few flashes of pure filth, faltered after a good start to his outing Saturday.
Both Fried and Steven Matz made quick work of their opponents in the first, as Matz worked around an early error to retire the Braves in order and Fried only needed eight pitches to silence the Mets. Fried included a beautiful bender in his show down with Pete Alonso. Both pitchers obviously had good stuff to start.
In the top of the second inning, Adam Duvall decided enough doggone time had gone by without the Braves showing up on the scoreboard. As a result, he launched a Matz breaking ball into the right field seats, unintentionally nailing a cutout of Jeff McNeil’s pup in the process. Fortunately, the only harm that was done was to Matz’s ERA, and the Braves took the lead, 1-0. In the bottom of the second, Fried found life a bit more turbulent. Though he retired Yoenis Cespedes and Robinson Cano in order, he walked Wilson Ramos on four straight pitches and then allowed Michael Conforto to reach on a free pass as well. Fortunately, after a needed mound visit, Fried refocused and ended the inning with a strikeout of Amed Rosario.
Both Fried and Matz settled in and quickly made it through the third and fourth innings, respectively. The only blemish was a walk to Freddie Freeman. Though Johan Camargo singled with one out in the top of the fifth, Matz generated a double play via Duvall to keep the Atlanta offense silent. Fried took the mound for the bottom of the fifth with a no-hitter in the works; unfortunately, that success quickly evaporated. After getting Ramos to fly out, Fried allowed a double to Conforto, a triple to Rosario, and a sacrifice fly to McNeil. This sequence also included Brandon Nimmo being hit by a pitch. Once the fifth inning finally ended, Fried’s day was finished, and the Mets had a 2-1 lead.
Overall, Fried had a decent start to 2020. Over 67 pitches, he threw 39 strikes, including 20 over his final 29 pitches. He also only walked two batters, and generated five strikeouts while also producing three innings in which he retired the Mets in order with 10 or less pitches. However, Fried did have a bit of a wild streak in the second inning (with no help from the ump), and then faltered to end his day in the fifth inning. On most days, Fried’s performance would have been fine, and he likely could have worked another inning. However, with the Braves offense off to a slow start, Fried exited with Atlanta behind.
Matz ended his day by keeping the Braves quiet in the top of the sixth. Despite the Duvall home run, Matz allowed only one walk, one run, and two hits while striking out seven as he once again baffled the Braves. Josh Tomlin replaced Fried in the bottom of the sixth inning and made quick work of the middle of the Mets order. Unfortunately, the Braves again could not capitalize in the top of the seventh, as for the fifth time in the game, the Braves were retired in order.
The Mets offense found early success in the bottom of the seventh, with singles from Ramos and Conforto off of Tomlin and his replacement, A.J. Minter. Rosario advanced Ramos to third on a ground out, but Minter rebounded by striking out Nimmo and McNeil to end the threat. It was a much needed debut for Minter, as he looks to move past a forgettable 2019 campaign.
The Braves finally showed a bit of life in the top of the eighth inning. Though Dansby Swanson went down on strikes after missing a double by inches and Camargo grounded out, the Braves found a bit of two out magic. Austin Riley singled off of Dellin Betances, and after the Mets replaced Betances with Justin Wilson to face pinch hitter Matt Adams, Adams connected for another single that set up runners at first and third for Ronald Acuna Jr. against a left-hander. Unfortunately, Acuna Jr. could not make the Mets pay, as his strikeout ended the Braves’ scoring threat.
Darren O’Day made his season debut in the bottom of the eighth, and worked around a Cespedes single for a successful inning, including strikeouts of J.D. Davis and Pete Alonso. Edwin Diaz entered the game in the ninth, and made quick work of Ozzie Albies and Freeman. After three straight balls to Marcell Ozuna, Diaz worked the count full and looked to put Ozuna away with his devastating fastbal.....
BUT NO SIR, NOT TODAY!!!
✔️ 2 outs— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) July 25, 2020
✔️ 3-2 count
✔️ 9th inning
MARCELL OZUNA, EVERYONE. pic.twitter.com/KpwJ96dvA3
Ozuna went with the outside heater and placed it over the right-center fielder wall, tying the game on the Braves last strike. Though it took much longer than likely anyone preferred, the Braves found the timely hitting they had been missing at the most opportune time. Furthermore, Ozuna looks to be quite comfortable in the Braves cleanup spot, with some good at bats and hard contact in his first two games as a Brave.
Never one to hide from the drama, the Braves handed the ball to Luke Jackson to extend the game past the ninth. Immediately, Jackson made sure to keep his brand strong, as after retiring Ramos via a loud line out, he allowed singles to Conforto and Rosario. Thankfully, Jackson followed up the hits with consecutive outs, as Nimmo and McNeil flew out and grounded out, respectively.
History was made in the top of the tenth, as Adam Duvall became the first Brave ever to be awarded second base to start an inning simply because he is a nice guy (with a nice assist from some new rules.) Swanson stepped to the plate and decided to waste little time celebrating Duvall’s success, sending a sharp single into center and giving the Braves a 3-2 lead. Camargo kept the breakthrough going with another single to left, allowing Swanson to advance to third. Ender Inciarte, who had entered the game as a pinch runner for Riley in eighth, grounded out but got Swanson home to make the score 4-2.
As mentioned before the game, the start to Alex Jackson’s career without a hit had reached historic levels. Many were hoping that a response to that would be a Braves catcher getting the first hit of his career today. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for Alex Jackson. However, a Braves catcher did get the first hit of his career. William Contreras, the surprising beneficiary of an earlier than expected Major League debut due to the health status of Tyler Flowers and Travis D’ Arnaud, delivered an RBI double in his first major league at bat, scoring Camargo. Though Jackson’s time will eventually come, Contreras could not have found a better time to continue delivering on the buzz he has created in Atlanta over the past few weeks. Despite an Acuna Jr. strikeout and Albies ground out, the Braves finally experienced their needed breakout, and entered the bottom of the 10th up 5-2.
Of course, the Mets also started their tenth with a runner on second, and though Jackson has shown tremendous success with runners on base, he decided to once again elevate heart rates across Braves nation. Singles by Jake Marisnick and Alonso loaded the bases after McNeil started the inning at second. However, it was merely all for show, as Jackson then retired Eduardo Nunez and Dominic Smith with flyouts (though Smith’s scored McNeil) and Ramos with a ground out to end the game. The Disciple of Drama once again lived up to his name, and the Braves escaped with a 5-3 victory.
Entering 7th inning, #Braves have 3 walks and 1 hit from the first three spots in their order -- Acuña, Albies, Freeman -- over the first 15 innings of the season, with all three walks from Freeman.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 25, 2020
None of this should surprise Braves fans. One run through their first 53 outs of the season along with 27 strikeouts through their first two games, and yet Atlanta finally has their offensive revival in extra innings to get their first win of the year. The Braves achieved this despite the proof above that the Braves best hitters have certainly struggled to start the season (they were 0-5 with three more strikeouts for the rest of the game.) Yet, overall, this has to make many feel good on this Saturday evening. The Braves pitching has been phenomenal with the defense to match, and though they were one strike away from a significantly negative start to the season, they have a chance to earn a series win tomorrow.
Though there are obviously much more preferred methods to enjoy, today’s game should remind many that Atlanta remains among the most talented teams in the majors. And, on most occasions, talent can only be held down for so long.