With the Braves dropping their first two games of the season, they were hoping for some positive things to finally break their way as they took the field for the finale of their season-opening series against the Phillies. While the hope was for the offense to finally get a few breaks, it was actually the Braves’ pitching that shined once again.
Both Zach Eflin and Ian Anderson had their pitches working early. Eflin worked around a walk in the top of the first inning, while Anderson worked around a walk and a single to keep the score tied at zero. The Phillies found success first, as J.T. Realmuto’s replacement, Andrew Knapp, connected for the first run of the game with a home run to right.
The Braves looked to answer in the top of the third, as Anderson, in his first career at-bat, hit a double. Ronald Acuna Jr. looked to score Anderson, and nailed a ball up the middle, but Jean Segura snagged the sharp liner and doubled Anderson off second base. Once again, the Braves made good contact in a needed moment only to run into a bit of bad luck.
Over the next few innings, a flurry of double plays kept the score at 1-0 in the Phillies favor. Ian Anderson found success after allowing the home run to Knapp, and had a solid opening outing to the season. Over five innings, he allowed four hits, two walks, the home run, and produced seven strikeouts. Of his 88 pitches, 55 were for strikes. Unfortunately, the Braves offense once again struggled to support a very good effort from Atlanta’s starting staff.
painted from Tyler Matzek pic.twitter.com/XpVf53Uf6B— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) April 4, 2021
After the Braves were retired in order in the top of the sixth inning, Tyler Matzek entered the game and looked dominant, striking out the side, including hitting the century mark on a called third strike. One encouraging development early in the season is that Matzek appears ready to build off his breakout performance in 2020.
Continuing with the theme of breaking out, Travis d’Arnaud decided it was about time for a starting position player to go deep, as he connected for a solo home run to left field with two outs against Eflin. Though Eflin would finish his impressive day by striking out Dansby Swanson, the Braves tied the score 1-1.
Two flame-throwing southpaws would do their jobs for both teams, as A.J. Minter kept the Phillies scoreless in the bottom of the seventh inning while Jose Alvarado impressively kept the Braves silent in the top of the eighth inning. Unfortunately, in the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies found some success against Chris Martin. Three consecutive hits by Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, and Alex Bohm made the score 2-1, and to make matters worse, Martin then had to be removed from the game due to an injury. Grant Dayton entered the game and ended the inning with a strikeout.
Hector Neris took the mound to save the game for the Phillies, and caught Acuna Jr. looking for a strikeout. Ozzie Albies was then retired on a loud out to right field. However, both Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna earned walks against Neris to bring up d’Arnaud, who had delivered earlier in the game. Unfortunately, he could not succeed a second time, as he flew out to right field to end the game.
Atlanta was once again a bit unlucky, as three of the hardest hit balls and four of the balls that traveled the farthest during the game came off Atlanta bats. However, the Braves once again experienced a game with less than 30 at-bats, producing only four hits, three walks, and eleven strikeouts. Though d’Arnaud did hit a home run, a very disappointing three game sweep at the hands of the Phillies is easy to explain due to a lackluster offense. The Braves starting staff and bullpen looked solid in each game, so that certainly is a positive moving forward.
As has frequently been mentioned, the Braves will likely find their offensive stride soon, and it is the first three games of the season. However, the task does not get any easier with the top of the Washington Nationals rotation up next. Regardless, the Braves should be due for brighter days in the near future.