For a few innings, it seemed like tonight’s game was on track to be a nervy repeat of the low-scoring affair that we saw in last night’s series opener in Pittsburgh. Instead, the game turned in the blink of an eye as Atlanta racked up five runs in a shockingly-quick fifth inning. The Braves used both that inning and a fantastic start from Max Fried to quickly sprint to a comfortable 6-1 victory over the Pirates.
Things didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start for the Braves in this one. JT Brubaker was keeping Atlanta’s lineup very quiet for the early portion of the game while Max Fried was forced to perform at his usual high level just to keep the Braves in the game early on. However, the Braves were forced to play a little bit of catch-up in this one as the Pirates played longball to get ahead in the second inning. Max Fried didn’t make too many mistakes tonight, but Michael Chavis took advantage of one of the few mistakes he did make and pulled a slider into the seats in the left field corner to put Pittsburgh ahead early.
The next two frames came and went without much of an incident and then the fifth inning suddenly devolved into havoc. JT Brubaker only threw 20 pitches in this fateful frame and he probably wants every single one of them back. That includes the very first pitch of this inning, where Brubaker left a slider low and in the zone for Travis d’Arnaud to hit a homer to nearly the same spot where Michael Chavis hit his homer in the second inning. The game was tied but the tide wasn’t done turning at that point.
In fact, the next five Braves hitters all reached base and they didn’t take a lot of time doing so. William Contreras and Vaughn Grissom both saw five pitches in each of their at-bats, while the other seven Braves batters who went to the plate in the fifth inning saw ten pitches total. Contreras’ single followed up d’Arnaud’s homer, then Michael Harris II hit the second pitch he saw from Brubaker into the deepest part of PNC Park for a 404-foot opposite field double. Grissom’s at-bat ended in a single that put the Braves in front and then Robbie Grossman kept the line going at breakneck pace as he smacked the first pitch he saw into right field to make it 3-1.
Ronald Acuña Jr. slapped a single of his own on the very next pitch to load the bases and then Dansby Swanson waited until the second pitch before he pulled the trigger on a swing. While Dansby ended up grounding into a force out, he was able to beat the double play bid to bring in Grissom to make it 4-1. Austin Riley also saw a grand total of two pitches before swinging and lifting one to center field for a sacrifice fly that made it 5-1. Matt Olson then grounded out on the very first pitch he saw to end the inning. In what surely felt like a bit of an extended ambush, JT Brubaker went from comfortably keeping the Braves in check to suddenly finding himself four runs behind a team with Max Fried going.
Let me tell you: Max Fried was going tonight. This was one of the best starts of the season for Fried, as Atlanta’s ace pitcher did exactly what you would ask an ace pitcher to do to a lineup of Pittsburgh’s quality. Fried finished with eight strong innings where he only gave up three hits, one walk and one run while striking out seven Pirates batters. Outside of giving up the homer to Michael Chavis (which made the Pirates the only other team besides the Mets to have hit more than one home run off of Max Fried this season), Fried didn’t look like he was in major trouble at any point in this game. It’s the kind of start that you expect from Fried and yet it was still very fun to watch him do what he does on a regular basis now.
Max Fried, Gorgeous 76mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/dnTzw1yK4z— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 24, 2022
The Braves eventually ran JT Brubaker from the game in the seventh inning, as Vaughn Grissom continued to loudly introduce himself to Major League Baseball with a leadoff single. Dansby Swanson picked up a single of his own with two outs and that prompted the Pirates to put in Chase De Jong in relief of Brubaker. With Ronald Acuña Jr. on third following a force out and Dansby’s single, Austin Riley put the icing on this game’s cake by poking a grounder through the left side of the infield to bring home Acuña to make it 6-1 Braves.
That was how the game eventually ended. Collin McHugh got the ball for the ninth inning and he continued what’s been a very nice year on the mound for him as he sat down the Pirates in 1-2-3 order with a pair of strikeouts to end the game and give the Braves another series victory. The Braves are now 29 games over .500 and they’ll be right back at it tomorrow afternoon with a chance to make it an even 30 games over. They’ve only given up two runs in this series so far and they have Kyle Wright starting tomorrow.
While day games have been Atlanta’s kryptonite so far this season, I still like their chances at a sweep and here’s hoping that we’ll be talking about it by the time the action is over tomorrow. For now, this was a perfectly fine way to spend two hours and fifteen minutes on a lovely August night.