Drew Smyly’s return to Grapefruit League action went quite well on a sunny, windy afternoon where the Braves topped the Rays, 5-2. Smyly carved up batter after batter, hurling five innings and allowing just a hit and a walk in the process while striking out six in the process. If you had concerns about a guy who last pitched an official game on March 9 (why?), hopefully you don’t anymore, at least not just because he was missing in action for a couple of weeks.
Offensively, the Braves were about only a little less stymied by Michael Wacha as the Rays were by Smyly. They threatened in the second, as Marcell Ozuna creamed a grounder past third for a double and moved to third on an infield single, but a strikeout and a double play ball off Austin Riley’s bat ended that threat. A leadoff walk and a two-out hit by pitch were similarly wasted in the third.
Smyly departed after five in favor of Luke Jackson, who had, well, a kinda Luke Jackson-esque inning. Jackson struck out the side, but he also issued a two-out walk, which led to the Rays’ first run when
the ghosts attacked Cristian Pache lost a lazy fly ball in the sun. The Braves, though, got right back into it: Ozzie Albies started the bottom of the sixth with an infield single, which chased Wacha. In came one-time Brave Chaz Roe. Albies stole second and moved to third on a groundout, but all that was kind of pointless because The Big Bear himself, Ozuna, waited on a loopy, inside Roe slider and slammed it over the fence in left field for a go-ahead two-run homer.
That lead was short-lived, Tyler Matzek came on for the seventh and immediately gave up a solo homer to Greg Jones. Matzek was apparently bugged by something in his outing, and a few check-swing calls didn’t go his away — after the homer he walked two batters, got a groundout, and then got pulled in favor of Josh Tomlin, who induced a lineout to right to end the threat. Tomlin stayed in to work a scoreless eighth, too.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Braves and Rays got their usual Spring Training sillies out. Jason Kipnis led off the frame by reaching on mishandled roller by pitcher Yacksel Rios, and moved to second when Ehire Adrianza shot a grounder the other way through the infield. After a Phil Ervin strikeout, William Contreras unloaded on a meaty pitch and thwacked it into right-center for a go-ahead double. With two out, Trey Harris hit a fly into right, and this time the ghosts/sun/wind/yetis afflicted Tampa Bay outfielder Moises Gomez, who overran the ball and didn’t come in quickly enough, leading to Atlanta’s fifth run courtesy of a three-base error. Atlanta’s batting ledger ended a few pitches later, when Harris tried to score on a wild pitch but was thrown out by about 30 feet instead. Spring Training!
Chris Martin came on and dominated the three Rays hitters on his plate, ending the game with back-to-back-to-back strikeouts. Fin.
Cristian Pache had an eventful day — in addition to missing the fly ball due to ghosts/the sun, he went 2-for-2 with his first double of Spring Training (a hustle variety on a grounder to left) and a pop-up single, as well as a walk.
The Braves are almost done with Spring Training, and Opening Day is a week away!