When AJ Minter struck out Ian Cron in the bottom of the ninth last Friday to send the game to a scoreless extra-inning affair in Denver, I was confident that Max Fried’s eight-inning gem of a start was going to go to waste. To me, it’s felt like the implementation of the ever-popular ghost runner has spelled an automatic loss for the Braves in games that get that far. So, after they were able to not only win in Friday’s free baseball but also emerge victorious in the same situation the next day, I started to wonder if my pessimism was more founded in negativity towards the ghost runner rule itself rather than the Braves’ performance in games that involve it.
Upon further investigation, it really is a little bit of both.
Since the ghost runner was first applied in 2020 as part of the league’s health and safety protocols, the Braves have played in 25 extra-inning contests. They have won just nine of them.
The 25 games are nearly evenly split between home and away, with 13 of them taking place at Truist Park. It follows that five of the nine wins have been in walk-off fashion at home—perhaps the most iconic of them coming on May 8, 2021 against the Phillies, when the Braves scored two in the ninth on a Pablo Sandoval down-to-his-last-strike two-run blast to send the game to extras and managed to re-tie the score in the 11th before besting the Phillies’ three runs in the top of the 12th with four to walk off the almost five-hour affair.
Started the bottom of the 12th inning down 3 runs. Ended it like this:#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/3cptAUoUuL— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 9, 2021
Of course, honorable mention goes to Fried’s pinch-hit walk-off single against the Marlins last July 4th.
Let Fried-dom ring!#ForTheA | #4thofJuly pic.twitter.com/Y13R1DO2rU— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 4, 2021
Coming into this season, the Braves had managed just two extra-inning wins in eight tries on the road during the ghost runner era, and they lost two more this year before the recent victories in Denver. The latter half of the Rockies series also marked the Braves’ only wins in six total extra-inning tries thus far in 2022.
One other note that I found interesting is that of the Braves’ 25 games involving free baseball since 2020, only eight of them have gone past 10 innings, and none of them have seen a 13th. So, it does seem that the rule has been successful in terms of its original intent to limit the number of extra frames that we see, at least in a Braves-centric sample. I personally am sad that we may never again witness the likes of the utter chaos of 19 innings against the Pirates, but I digress.
I say all of this to say: if you were also fully prepared for a loss last Friday and Saturday, you weren’t alone, and the actual records do somewhat support that doubt. But maybe the Rockies series will prove to be a pivotal point in more ways than extending a winning streak and getting the Braves back over the .500 mark.
July 25 @ Mets W 5-3 (10)
August 28 @ Phillies L 7-4 (11)
September 7 vs. Marlins L 5-4 (10)
September 11 @ Nationals L 8-7 (12)
September 25 vs. Red Sox W 8-7 (11)
April 1 @ Phillies L 3-2 (10)
April 12 vs. Marlins L 5-3 (10)
April 14 vs. Marlins L 6-5 (10)
May 1 @ Blue Jays L 6-5 (10)
May 8 vs. Phillies W 8-7 (12)
May 20 vs. Pirates L 6-4 (10)
June 10 @ Phillies L 4-3 (10)
July 4 vs. Marlins W 8-7 (10)
July 16 vs. Rays L 7-6 (10)
August 11 vs. Reds W 8-6 (11)
September 9 vs. Nationals W 7-6 (10)
September 15 vs. Rockies L 3-2 (10)
September 17 @ Giants L 6-5 (11)
September 25 @ Padres W 10-8 (10)
April 27 vs. Cubs L 6-3 (10)
May 15 vs. Padres L 7-3 (11)
May 18 @ Brewers L 7-6 (11)
May 31 @ Diamondbacks L 8-7 (10)
June 3 @ Rockies W 3-1 (10)
June 4 @ Rockies W 6-2 (11)