The Braves have given up at least one first-inning run in each of the four games on their homestand so far. No matter, though: they’ve won three of them anyway, with a five-run fifth providing sufficient ammo to down the Marlins in the series opener in Atlanta.
One of the big stories coming into this game had to do with the pitching matchup, as both Ian Anderson and Trevor Rogers had highly impressive stints in the majors before hitting their first real rough patches over their last few starts. Both starters did indeed have bounceback outings, but the Braves were able to knock Rogers out early and rack up runs right after.
That’s not to say that the game was entirely smooth sailing for Anderson. After a first-pitch out and then a strikeout (Anderson’s first in 46 batters faced), he couldn’t turn a weak bouncer into an out, and then gave up a monster two-run homer to Jesus Sanchez on a 2-0 count. Once again, the Braves were in a hole, and Rogers kept them there for quite a while. Rogers struck out the side in the bottom half of the first, though Freddie Freeman did crush a two-out double off of him after a 10-pitch at-bat.
From the second through the fourth, Anderson and Rogers traded zeroes. Anderson scuffled a bit in the third, as he fumbled another comebacker and then walked both Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro with two outs. His command remained spotty, but he nonetheless got Lewin Diaz to pop out to third in an 0-2 count to keep the deficit at two runs. In the fifth, Anderson gave up two 50-50 seeing-eye singles with one out to men on the corners, but struck out both Sanchez and Alfaro to end the frame, and his night. Meanwhile, Rogers continued to mow down the Braves. After Freeman’s double, he sat down 11 straight. But, that roll came to a screeching halt with one out in the fifth.
Travis d’Arnaud got the Braves going with a one-out fly ball double down the right-field line. Rogers then issued a four-pitch “walk” to Orlando Arcia, starting in place of a resting Dansby Swanson, even though two of the pitches, and especially “ball four,” were likely strikes. (Thanks, Joe West, I guess.) Rogers then hit Guillermo Heredia, and the Braves forced the issue by lifting Anderson for pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza. In a 1-2 count, Adrianza hit a seeing-eye grounder of his own that got through the infield, giving the Braves their first run. The Marlins then lifted Rogers in favor of Zach Thompson, who struck out Ozzie Albies. Up next was Jorge Soler, and he broke the game open with... no, not a grand slam, but another 50-50, seeing-eye single. The single scored not two but three Braves, as center fielder Bryan de la Cruz overran the ball. The bad defense continued to benefit the Braves in this inning, as Freeman hit a weak bouncer that was barehanded by Miguel Rojas at shortstop and thrown way wide of first, allowing Soler to score.
After that, well, the Braves were in the driver’s seat, and didn’t really engender any further drama. Sean Newcomb came on for the sixth, gave up an infield single to start the inning, but then struck out the side. Luke Jackson also struck out the side (giving the Braves eight straight outs via strikeout) in the seventh, and Tyler Matzek followed with a scoreless eighth.
The Braves squandered a two on, none out situation against Thompson in the sixth and gave Taylor Williams a perfect frame in the seventh, but scratched across another run in the eighth against Steven Okert in the eighth, as Austin Riley reached base on an infield single to third, moved to second when Okert walked d’Arnaud, and came around to score on Arcia’s grounder up the middle.
In the ninth, Will Smith got the ball despite a four-run lead and breezed through an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning, giving the Braves their 75th win of the season. With the Phillies getting destroyed by the visiting Rockies today, the division lead is now 4.5 games.
It was a definite improvement on the hill for Ian Anderson, who had a stellar 9/2 K/BB ratio and really only had one inning of self-induced trouble, aside from the 2-0 pitch that Sanchez destroyed to give Miami a first-inning lead. The command was erratic for Anderson, but erratic isn’t terrible, so there’s a lot to build on from this start, and hopefully he does just that. Rogers was dominant early on with a 6/1 K/BB ratio, but had his line tarnished in the fifth due to a bunch of stuff he couldn’t really control.
The Braves scored six runs, all on grounders and defensive misplays, to win this one, a night after bashing five homers to win a 7-6 game.