The Braves won in walk-off fashion against the Blue Jays as Nick Markakis blasted a home run into the empty right field seats, putting an emphatic stamp on a 4-3 victory. Markakis made his first start of the season, batting fifth, and made the most of his triumphant return. The club may not be at full strength, but quickly reaped the benefit of having another veteran left-handed bat in the lineup. Great job, Nick, and welcome back to baseball.
Not to be forgotten, Touki Toussaint was excellent is his second start of the season. The young right-hander baffled Blue Jays hitters all night, mixing in his excellent mix of off-speed pitches that played well off his mid-90’s fastball. Toussaint is battling for a permanent spot in the rotation going forward and looked as good as ever, going 62⁄3 innings while allowing three runs with nine strikeouts and zero walks. Toussaint was the hard-luck recipient of some batted ball oddity in the seventh inning before his exit so his final line looks somewhat mediocre, but passed the eye test with flying colors.
Unfortunately for Toussaint, who entered the seventh with a 3-1 lead, reliever Tyler Matzek was unable to strand an inherited runner who would tie the game at 3. This gave Toussaint a no-decision despite his brilliance, but the club had to be impressed. This is the Toussaint that so many have waited to see, and inspires hope that the uber-talented hurler can finally put it all together.
Toussaint was staked to an early lead in this one as Freddie Freeman drilled a two-run homer in the first inning, giving Atlanta a quick 2-0 advantage. Freeman had struggled mightily prior to his off-day on Wednesday, but hopefully this blast will precede a return to his usual self. Freeman now has two homers on the young season and will look to build on this momentum, much like Ronald Acuña Jr.
The Blue Jays got on the board in the fourth inning, with Bo Bichette homering off Toussaint to cut the deficit to 2-1. Atlanta wasted little time in getting the run back as Adam Duvall drove in Marcell Ozuna on a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning. Duvall has seen increased playing time of late and continues to produce offensively, which coupled with his excellent defense gives the Braves a necessary boost in the outfield.
Staked to a 3-1 lead, Toussaint went back to work and continued to impress. It’s hard to overstate how huge his performance was for Atlanta, not only for this game but for the sake of the rotation going forward. The club needs to solidify its starting staff beyond Max Fried, and Toussaint showing real, tangible evidence of growth would be incredible given his lofty ceiling. He cruised along until things went sideways in the seventh, but certainly has reason for optimism going forward.
The game was tied after the Blue Jays struck for two runs in the seventh, and remained tied until the bottom of the ninth, thanks in part to another great performance from the Atlanta bullpen. Shane Greene and Mark Melancon provided two scoreless innings to set the stage for Markakis, and should continue to help anchor what has become a formidable group.
The Braves now head to Philadelphia following an exciting series victory over the Blue Jays. The club has to be pleased with the pitching that was on display this week, especially after the traumatic loss of the staff ace on Monday. A fitting return for Markakis has to boost spirits somewhat, even if the team will dearly miss Soroka for the remainder of the season. This was an all-around team victory that fully encompasses the collection of youthful, raw talent and steady, veteran leadership that have been assembled in Atlanta. On to Philly.