I’m not a big comedy guy. Don’t get me wrong: I like being funny, and I like when others are funny. I just don’t like when the whole point of an enterprise is purely comedy. Which is why, my friends, let me tell you: I love the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Now, I don’t mean to imply that their bullpen is necessarily bad. After all, this season, their bullpen has the seventh-most fWAR in baseball. But, nonetheless, it is hilarious, and tonight was as good of an example as that as you’ll find. In brief, the Braves trailed 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, with a trio of solo homers the only scoring in the game. In came Seranthony Dominguez, one of the best relievers in baseball this year. Two batters in, thanks to a Ronald Acuña Jr. two-run bomb, the Braves were ahead. Seven batters in, they were up by multiple runs. A new Phillies reliever and two more batters later, and the Braves were suddenly up 7-2. High comedy, in the midst of a sporting contest. Wonderful.
Throughout most of this game, it was hard to squint and see it ending this way. Max Fried and Ranger Suarez didn’t really pitch well at all, but nonetheless stymied the offenses. Fried was perfect through three, but allowed a homer to Kyle Schwarber to lead off the fourth. Schwarber battled for nine pitches, including three straight fouls on 3-2, and took a centered Fried four-seamer at the knees out to right-center for his 39th longball of the year.
The Braves weren’t doing much better against Suarez. They did get a baserunner in each of the first three innings, including a leadoff walk in the third, but couldn’t push any runs across. After Schwarber’s homer, Suarez got two quick outs, but then fell behind 3-0 on William Contreras. It certainly seemed to me that Suarez was just going to work around Contreras, who had already singled off him earlier in the game, to get a lefty-lefty matchup with Michael Harris II... but instead Suarez threw a sinker right down the middle on 3-0, and Contreras obliterated it to tie the game. Suarez then got Harris to chase and hit a weak comebacker to end the inning.
The Braves would not hold the tie for... any batter. Jean Segura led off the fifth with another homer off Fried, this time on a four-seamer well above the zone that was pulled into left center and barely landed over the fence. Before last Saturday’s game, Fried had allowed just two homers combined over his last 14 starts — he had now allowed double dingers in back-to-back games. This is the first time in his career he’s had consecutive multi-homer games.
The rest of the fifth was a continued adventure for Fried. He followed Segura’s homer with a four-pitch walk to Bryson Stott. Later, after an out and picking off Stott to clear the bases, Dansby Swanson muffed a slow roller that went for an infield hit. After another hit, Schwarber was up again, this time with two on... but after falling behind 3-1, Fried beat him on an elevated sinker for strike two, and then ended the inning on a nasty, inside-and-low corner curve that just gobbled Schwarbs right up.
But, the Braves trailed now, and they couldn’t do anything else against Suarez. They didn’t in the fifth despite a two-out walk, and after Fried had another adventurous, two-walk sixth that ultimately produced zero runs for Philadelphia, the heart of Atlanta’s order went 1-2-3 against Suarez in the sixth, despite seeing him for a third time. Welp.
A combination of Collin McHugh and Dylan Lee worked a scoreless seventh, and then the hometown fans were treated to a ridiculous delay of game as Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado requested that the entire Truist Park grounds crew fix the mound, or something. In this game, we will feature a pitch clock, but also 15-minute delays for stuff like this, woo. Anyway, when Alvarado was actually ready to pitch, he punked Contreras and Harris, and got Ozzie Albies to ground out to end the inning. Things were looking grim.
A combination of Lee and Jesse Chavez once again held the Phillies at bay in the eighth, and then it was time for the comedy portion to take hold. Seranthony Dominguez came on, and dude’s been great: 1.6 fWAR in just 46 innings, a 38/55/70 line, 26 shutdowns to just seven meltdowns. And yet, for the sake of comedy, Dominguez walked pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario to start the inning. Then, it was time for blastoff:
Oh, but the Braves (and the Phillies’ bullpen) weren’t done. After an out, Austin Riley doubled. After another out, Travis d’Arnaud walked. William Contreras scored Riley with a single. Dominguez left in favor of Nick Nelson. Harris scored d’Arnaud with a single. Albies capped the hilarity with a bloop two-run double that featured Schwarber sliding while not particularly close to the ball. Welcome back, kid, playing the Phillies with their bullpen and their defense is fun, yeah?
Amidst all this scoring, some contingent of Braves fans was probably excited to see that even before the Braves busted out a huge lead, Raisel Iglesias was warming in the bullpen in lieu of Kenley Jansen. After Eddie Rosario appeared for the second time in the eighth (and struck out to end the inning), Iglesias came on and breezed through the ninth, allowing just a two-out single. Pinch-hitter Brandon Marsh flew out to end the game, giving Atlanta its 89th win of the year, and allowing the Braves to keep pace with the Mets, who beat the Pirates 4-3 earlier in the night.
Max Fried struggled again in this one, with a 7.61 FIP and 5.01 xFIP, reflecting his worst and second-worst marks of the year, respectively. Other than that, though, high comedy at the ballpark tonight. Tomorrow’s matchup, Jake Odorizzi versus Aaron Nola, looks more grim, but perhaps we’ll find something to guffaw about there, too.