Thanks to a solid two innings of work from Ian Anderson and an early homer from Travis d’Arnaud helping to boost the offense, the Braves were able to have a nice and breezy day at CoolToday Park in North Port on their way to a spring training win over the Twins.
Last season, Travis d’Arnaud finished the year in 3rd place on the Catcher wRC+ leaderboards among those who had at least 100 plate appearances. d’Arnaud will have a pretty big task ahead of him in 2021 to give the Braves a similar level of production at the plate, but he appears to be up to the task if this game is any indication. During the first inning, Travis d’Arnaud absolutely pummeled a ball in the first inning for a two-run homer that put the Braves ahead early. That ended up being d’Arnaud’s only hit of the day after two plate appearances, but he definitely made his presence felt in his 2021 Grapefruit League debut. This is also the second year in a row where Travis d’Arnaud kicked off his spring with a home run, so maybe this is an omen of good things to come.
Meanwhile, Ender Inciarte had himself a pretty interesting day on the field. He finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate and recorded a run following a double from Ehire Adrianza. We also got another flash of Ender’s ability with the glove, as he helped end a bases-loaded Twins rally in the second inning by making a sliding catch to rob Max Kepler of what would have surely brought in multiple runs for the Twins.
I’m certain that Ian Anderson definitely appreciated Ender’s efforts on the catch, since it helped preserve what was the last of two scoreless innings for Anderson while he was on the mound. All three of the hits that Anderson surrendered came in succession during that second inning. However, Ian was able to get out of the one-out jam with a strikeout and the aforementioned line out to Ender. Anderson finished the day with a walk as well, but the most important stat is that he managed to keep the Twins from putting any numbers up in the run department. It wasn’t his sharpest day on the mound, but it’s a perfectly fine performance for an early-March spring training game.
The other Braves batter to finish the day 2-for-3 at the plate was Austin Riley. He bounced back from a strikeout in the first inning to deliver two singles in his next two at-bats. The second one in particular ended up bringing in a run to extend Atlanta’s lead in the fifth inning — he didn’t get credit for the RBI, since he hit a bullet that Twins pitcher Ian Gibaut made a meal out of, so Riley got credited with a single and a throwing error brought in the run and allowed Riley to make it all the way to third base. Riley is now 4-for-6 through two spring training games, so he’s getting off to a pretty good start when it comes to hitting in these exhibition games so far.
Austin Riley's comebacker single.— Baseball GIFs (@gifs_baseball) March 2, 2021
Courtesy of u/HitchOnAHearse pic.twitter.com/TdMHJ3Kt5R
Will Smith, Jacob Webb, and Kyle Muller all got to pitch in this one, and all of them helped contribute to keeping the Twins off of the scoreboard for the entire game. Kyle Muller in particular did pretty well, as he ended up getting to pitch into the sixth inning after starting his stint in the fifth. He racked up three strikeouts while managing to avoid giving up just two hits and no walks while he was out there. It was a pretty good day on the mound for our seventh-ranked prospect in the Braves system, and hopefully we’ll see more of that as spring training continues.
Overall, the Braves didn’t have too much trouble on the field this afternoon. Travis d’Arnaud, Austin Riley and Ender Inciarte all managed to produce at the plate, and the pitching staff was impressive over all seven innings today. There’s not much to complain about here, which is all you can ask for when it comes to spring training games.