For tonight, at least, Bryce Elder did not keep getting away with this. The right-hander, who had yielded zero homers through his first four starts of the year, yielded three in one game. With reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara on the hill for the visitors, it seemed like it was going to be one of those games for the Braves. But, that’s not how things turned out. Instead, the Marlins seemingly forgot how to play baseball in the eighth, and the Braves took full advantage, grabbing their third victory in a row with a 6-4 decision.
The first half of this game was really one-sided. Sandy Alcantara was mowing down Braves like a kid with boundless energy and a burning desire for revenues from his ad-hoc landscaping business. Meanwhile, Bryce Elder gave up homers in three consecutive innings. After retiring the first five batters of the game, Elder’s first longball of the season came off of the bat of Jesus Sanchez, who battled him for six pitches and then hit a no-doubter into the Chop House on a challenge 3-2 down-the-pipe 91 mph four-seamer. An inning later, it was Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s turn to hit a solo shot. This time, Elder fell behind 3-0, threw a grooved, down-the-middle sinker that was fouled off to make it 3-1, and then inexplicably threw the exact same pitch again. It ended predictably. Then, in the fourth, Elder fell behind 2-0 to Avisail Garcia, and threw a get-me-over changeup that quickly left the ballpark and made it 3-0 in favor of Miami.
To that point, Elder’s only real issues were the homers. He hadn’t walked anyone, and wasn’t really dealing with any traffic on the bases due to ball in play stuff, either. But, in the sixth, he gave up a leadoff single and issued his only two walks of the game as the Marlins saw him for a third time, forcing him out of the game after 5 1⁄3 innings with a pretty brutal final line. The saving grace was that despite a 75 percent HR/FB in the game, Elder actually had a grounder rate of 67 percent, so his xFIP wasn’t that bad. The grooved pitches when falling behind? Well, hopefully that’s a learning experience, though he didn’t seem to learn within this game.
After Elder left, the Braves handed the ball to Michael Tonkin to try to escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam when already down by three. Tonkin struck out Sanchez (on a pitch that hit Sanchez, heh) to start his night, but then “walked” Jon Berti on a 3-1 pitch that was pretty blatantly a strike. He then got out of it with a pop fly, and pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth to boot, finishing his night with a 2/2 K/BB ratio. In any case, with Elder out of the game, the Braves were at one point down 4-0... and with Alcantara on the hill, it looked grim, until it didn’t.
In the early going, Alcantara was just dealing. He struck out Matt Olson in the first on three straight z-whiff fastballs, and then carved up Austin Riley on four pitches. Eddie Rosario and Sam Hilliard were other three-pitch strikeout victims the first time through the order. To end the fifth, Alcantara fell behind Hilliard 3-0, and then pumped in three strikes to end the frame. But, the bell known as “the third time through the order” often tolls for pitchers of all quality, and well, it was Alcantara’s turn tonight.
First, Ronald Acuña Jr. did this to Alcantara:
40/40 campaign continues for Ronald pic.twitter.com/JOEHhspRmb— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 27, 2023
Riley later doubled to left, and Rosario walked with two outs, with Alcantara no longer able to locate, well, anything. That issue continued through the Ozzie Albies PA, as Alcantara walked the free-swinging Braves second baseman on five pitches, and that was it. So dominant, and then so not, and then so out of the game. Alcantara ended up finishing with a 6/3 K/BB ratio in 5 2⁄3 innings of work.
Huascar Brazoban came out of the Miami bullpen in relief of Alcantara and his second pitch of the game was smacked by Vaughn Grissom into left for an RBI single. The Braves sent Rosario around third to the plate on the play, but he was easily thrown out by Garcia in left. It was 4-2, Marlins, heading into the seventh, and also out of the seventh, as the Braves went 1-2-3 against Brazoban in his first full frame.
But then the eighth came, and it was the baseball manifestation of the Yakety Sax theme playing over footage of the Washington Generals or something. Before the nonsense, Matt Olson got the fun started by yoinking a Dylan Floro pitch just over the wall in right for a solo shot, to make it a one-run game.
But, two batters later, it began.
First, Sean Murphy hit a slow roller to Jon Berti at third base. Despite Murphy running about as fast as my kid when we’re already five minutes late for preschool dropoff and she doesn’t want to wear those shoes, daaaad, Berti’s throw was nowhere near first base, and the tying run was on (and quickly took the form of new addition Nick Solak as a pinch-runner, because if you miss preschool dropoff presumably something bad happens but I don’t actually know what). Rosario then worked a full count, and uh... what? This happened, or something. I don’t get it either.
Garrett Cooper pulled a Rhys Hoskins, I guess. Eddie Rosario ended up on third with the weirdest triple I’ve seen in a while.
After falling behind Albies 2-0, the Marlins chose to intentionally walk him, which brought up Vaughn Grissom, who then gave the Braves the lead on this really slowly-developing kinda-sorta-a-hit-and-run-but-mostly-the-Marlins-were-just-in-a-really-weird-place-and-I-mean-as-a-franchise-as-well-as-their-defensive-alignment-in-this-game.
Oh, but we weren’t done yet. After Grissom, Marcell Ozuna came up, and he brought to the plate with him an old-timey dunce cap and put it right on Floro’s noggin. The Braves didn’t tweet this, so I don’t have an embed handy, but essentially Ozuna hit a comebacker to Floro, who picked the ball up, had Albies dead to rights at home, and threw the ball nowhere near the catcher’s glove hand, giving the Braves a sixth run.
Floro then had to go find a stool in a corner on which to wear his new piece of headgear, so Andrew Nardi came in and actually struck out both Hilliard and Olson to stop the bleeding.
Anyway, then A.J. Minter came on and a ho-hum, 11-pitch, two-strikeout inning to seal the win. Yakety sax.
The Braves will go for the four-game sweep on Thursday afternoon, which is a 12:20 pm ET start, so find a way to get off work or watch at work or just don’t work and gorge yourself on baseball for the rest of your life, it’s your call.