Of all the trips around the sun we’ve collectively taken, 2022 was definitely one of them. Baseball-wise, it was a pretty good year. While there were meta-reasons that the season wasn’t as interesting as it could’ve been, namely the added drag on the baseball creating a pretty erratic spring and the expanded playoff format making the stretch run quite boring, the Braves did their damn best to keep the season as exciting as possible as they ran down the Mets over the course of the summer and the fall.
One of the things that I love the most about baseball is the sense of rhythm. There’s a rhythm in each individual game as lineups turn over and frames fill in left to right, and there’s also a rhythm to the six months of the season, where irrespective of what happened last night, every day is a small rebirth, a chance to right yesterday’s wrongs and do the best thing possible: win a baseball game. The Braves, who won 101 games in 2022, didn’t have too many wrongs to right on a daily basis, especially once the calendar flipped to June. But, even so, it’s not like the summer was a blur of homers and strikeouts. There are a few distinct games I wanted to look back on, ones that stand out in my head — and also reminisce about some that it’s better to forget.
The apotheosis — Sunday, October 2, 5-3 win over the Mets
Let’s get this one out of the way first, though to be fair, “out of the way” isn’t the right way to describe it. The Braves came into their season-defining weekend series with the Mets in Atlanta will a tall order — sweep to have a great shot at winning the division, or face considerably longer odds with anything less than three wins in three games. They set themselves up well for success by taking the first two games, which led to this Sunday night showdown between Charlie Morton and Chris Bassitt.
Most of the dramatics in this one happened early, as seven of the game’s eight runs scored in its first three innings. The Braves went ahead 1-0 on a Dansby Swanson homer, but the Mets notched four straight hits against Morton to start the third, including Jeff McNeil’s homer to start the inning and a Daniel Vogelbach RBI single. The Braves continued to give Morton more rope after that, and he delivered, getting seven straight outs. Meanwhile, Bassitt had his own meltdown in the bottom of the third, walking in the tying run with two outs and then giving up the game-deciding two-run single to Travis d’Arnaud. The Mets only put the tying run on twice more in the game, and the Braves got a homer from Matt Olson to cap the scoring. In the end, they stood alone with 100 wins, a two-game division lead and the tiebreaker from winning the season series, needing just one more win or a Mets loss to clinch.
General recap thread sentiment: Braves rule, Mets drool
The wild one — Sunday, July 10, 4-3 win over the Nationals in 12 innings
The distribution of talent in MLB, as well as the entire milieu of the modern game, means that essentially no matchup is deterministic. When you see something like the 52-35 Braves and Ian Anderson facing off against the 30-58 Nationals and Paolo Espino at home, you might figure, “Close to a slam dunk win,” but the reality is that even a matchup like that only gives the Braves about a two-in-three chance of winning. What those odds couldn’t foresee, though, was how insane this game actually was.
Instinctively, you might think “insane” should be reserved for the baseball equivalent of a shootout, but this game only featured seven runs total. So, why was it insane? Well...
- Espino somehow struck out the side in the bottom of the second, and added another to start the third, giving a guy who finished the season with a strikeout rate well below 20 percent four outs via a punchout in a row.
- But then immediately after, the Braves hit three straight singles, got a walk, and hit a sac fly to take a 2-0 lead.
- Ian Anderson, despite it being July, was allowed to face the lineup a third time with said 2-0 lead in the sixth, promptly gave up back-to-back one-out walks, and then was pulled...
- Only for Dylan Lee to then give up a pinch-hit three-run homer to Lane Thomas. To be clear, if you’re following along, the score was now 3-2 Nationals, with the Braves having five singles, a double, and a walk to this point, and the Nats having two singles, four walks, and a homer. Which team was supposed to be which, again?
- Kyle Finnegan struck out the side of Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Matt Olson in the seventh, only to be left in for the eighth and immediately yield a game-tying homer to Austin Riley as the wheel of history started to rotate back to “normal.” The Braves then hit two more deep flies off Finnegan and drew back-to-back walks, but couldn’t untie it.
- Jesse Chavez worked a perfect ninth and Manfredball tenth, even as the Nats bunted their free runner over to third to start the frame.
- In the bottom of the tenth, Austin Riley got thrown out at the plate to end the inning, after the Braves had a barreled out to start it. It was the Braves’ second barreled out of the game.
- In the top of the 11th, Collin McHugh faced only three batters despite intentionally walking Juan Soto, thanks to a double play ball and a strikeout of hard-to-strike out guy Keibert Ruiz.
- A Michael Harris II single in the bottom of the 11th couldn’t score the slow-footed William Contreras, and Acuña had that really bad pop-out that sunk that inning. This forced McHugh to throw another scoreless frame, one that featured an infield single that didn’t advance the runner by former and eventual Brave Ehire Adrianza.
- And then finally, in his month of annihilation, Austin Riley, who tied the game way earlier, ended the game with a walkoff single off Jordan Weems.
This game lasted nearly four hours, had 11 combined walks and 17 combined hits, but only two combined homers, one for each team. There were 17, yes, 17 plays that swung win expectancy one way or another by ten percent or more. The end of this game was nearly five innings of consecutive high-leverage PAs.
General recap thread sentiment: Jesse Chavez is a wizard, bring on the Mets (who were next on the schedule), why does Ian Anderson keep getting sent out after batter no. 18?
The one with the lopsided drama distribution — Tuesday, September 20, 3-2 win over the Nationals
You know this meme? That’s what this game was, with regard to the Atlanta offense and its pitching staff.
Let me put it this way: in this game, the Braves never trailed, scoring two in the fourth and another in the eighth. The bats, well, I’m not going to say it was easy given that they only scored three runs against a combination of Patrick Corbin (left with injury after three batters), Erasmo Ramirez, Jordan Weems, Hunter Harvey, and Kyle Finnegan, but it certainly wasn’t stressful. The Braves didn’t get a runner to second in the first three innings, and their two-run inning was just a Travis d’Arnaud homer with a man on first. By the time they had multiple runners on in the seventh, they were still leading, and Dansby Swanson popped a homer off Finnegan for their third run in the eighth.
As for the pitching, meanwhile, there was, comparatively, a lot more sweat. While Charlie Morton had a good start (9/3 K/BB ratio, no homers in 5 1⁄3 innings), a lot of his baserunners were bunched, including loading the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the fourth (before the Braves scored) before getting out of it with a strikeout, and then putting the tying run on base before being pulled with one out in the sixth. The drama continued as the bullpen held a one-run lead, with both Collin McHugh and A.J. Minter pitching with the tying run on base at one point.
Oh, and then there was Kenley Jansen’s inning, where he allowed two bunt hits, eventually an RBI single, and issued an intentional walk before Luke Voit flew out to center to end the game.
Basically, the Braves had eight “baserunners” in this game, but two were homers, so they only ever had six guys on base. Meanwhile, the Nationals had seven guys on base across just two of the game’s nine innings... and lost.
This was the day where the Braves clinched a playoff berth, though given that they were focused on the division there wasn’t any kind of celebration, or anything. And boy, what a game to win in that context.
General recap thread sentiment: Pretty much still, “bring on the Mets” and “the Braves aren’t going anywhere, setting up a huge showdown in early October,” which is what happened.
Aaand now, a few to forget.
The snoozefest — Sunday, July 24, 9-1 loss to the Angels
The two prior games in this series featured an amazing outburst against Shohei Ohtani and then just an old-fashioned butt-kicking. The Sunday afternoon matchup was Ian Anderson versus Reid Detmers, and this game descended into “why bother?” really quickly.
After Ohtani flew out, the Angels unleashed six straight safeties versus Anderson, starting with a Taylor Ward homer and ending with a walk to Phil Gosselin, who had been on the team earlier in the season. After an RBI groundout and an infield single, the Braves were already down 5-0, and hadn’t come to bat yet. Ohtani made both the first and last out of the inning, while everyone else in the lineup either reached or made a run-scoring out. The Braves played some real poor defense in this one, too.
The offense proceeded to not do anything against Detmers, who finished his day with a 6/2 K/BB ratio in five fine innings. But, you couldn’t be blamed for turning it off after the Braves once again sent Anderson out to face a lineup a third time, only to pull him when he failed to retire either Ohtani or Ward. Jackson Stephens came on to eat innings, and it was 8-0 after four.
There was no position player pitching in this one, but Kenley Jansen randomly pitched the eighth and gave up a run. The Braves’ only run scored on an Acuña RBI single, but I’m guessing not that many people saw it given the score and everything.
General recap thread sentiment: Continued questioning about what the Braves are doing, and going to do, with Ian Anderson.
The late blowout — Wednesday, July 27, 7-2 loss in Philadelphia
Not long after Ian Anderson got blown out in probably the most boring game of the year, the Braves suffered a different kind of blah. This game was actually reasonably compelling early on, with a scoreless tie, but the Phillies hung a five-spot in the fifth and the Braves didn’t have much in them to keep it going.
The Braves weren’t able to hit Kyle Gibson much in this one, getting just a solitary baserunner in each of the first four innings. Charlie Morton looked great through four, with a 5/0 K/BB ratio, but then the game basically died in the fifth. Morton issued a leadoff walk, and then an error on a pickoff throw put the go-ahead run on third instead of first. A single, an error by Robinson Cano (I bet you wish you didn’t remember he was a Brave), and a single made it 2-0 Phillies with zero outs in the inning. The Braves (again) left Morton in to face the order for a third time, which led to a deep lineout sac fly, a walk, a double steal, and a two-run single before Morton was able to get out of it.
The Braves only managed a Matt Olson two-run homer as a countershot, but then Tyler Matzek came in and gave up two more runs in the bottom of the inning, and that was that. Olson had as many total bases with his homer as the rest of the team combined.
This game also featured a starting lineup that included Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario, Cano, and Mike Ford at DH, so it’s an easy one to add to the “forget” list.
General recap thread sentiment: Semi-ubiquitous complaining about A) the Braves in day games and B) Brian Snitker punting games.
So, how about you? Which game from the past year was the most memorable for you? Are there any you’d like to forget, or have already forgotten?