Baseball’s a funny game. Every contest between teams is different, and every day, you’ll see something you haven’t before. Success doesn’t come from having one awesome game; at best, over the course of the season, success is winning just a handful more games than another team. Sometimes, that can be sad: a great, fist-pumping game is just that, a single game. Sometimes, it’s a measure of salvation: a horrible game, like the one the Braves just played in Toronto, is just a game. But boy, what a game it was.
The best way to describe this game from the Braves’ perspective, I think, is “confusion.” The Braves were confused by Chris Bassitt, who came into this game having an uneven-but-really-more-like-problematic season. The Braves were confused by fly balls, as at one point there was a “double” because Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II just let one drop near them. The Braves were confused by leverage, inserting Danny Young into a one-run game with men on base, as the first guy out of the bullpen. Laz Diaz was confused, as always, and the Blue Jays took the lead on a blown fairly obvious strike three call. Eddie Rosario at one point represented the go-ahead run after doubling, but was confused about the concept of baserunning and got gunned down trying to steal third. There was a lot of confusion, is what I’m saying.
One guy wasn’t confused: Spencer Strider. He was awesome. Ultimately, his awesomeness didn’t factor into the game, but this was a vintage Strider outing. He struck out the first four batters he faced, and ended with a 12/1 K/BB ratio (and also hit a batter). He was in command of the game most of the evening, blowing away Jays batters left and right. The runs “charged” to him were, plainly, inane. In the fifth, with two outs and Kevin Kiermaier up, this happened:
Pitches 1 and 2 were strikes, and 4 was called a ball. I guess you could argue that 2 shouldn’t have been called a strike, and so it evened out, but in the end, Laz Diaz’ call at home plate extended the inning, and set up a situation where George Springer bounced one through the left side for an RBI single, because Kiermaier walked with a runner already on second. There was a weird follow-up on the play where Springer advanced to second on the throw home, but Kiermaier was then gunned down (after replay review) trying to score on the throw to second.
The second run “charged” to Strider was... very confusing. Though he had already hit 100 pitches, Strider was left in to start the seventh. He allowed a one-out double to Brandon Belt, but then struck out Whit Merrifield before being pulled with the lefty-swinging Kiermaier coming up. The Braves had many options, coming off a travel day, but opted to insert Danny Young into the game in what was medium leverage. That quickly became high leverage as Young walked Kiermaier, and then even higher leverage as Young also walked Springer. What followed was a wild pitch, and it was 2-0 Jays. Young did get a grounder to escape the inning after that, but why was he even in this game?
The third Toronto run scored on Daulton Varsho taking Kirby Yates deep in the eighth, but the game was largely sewn up at that point, because...
...the Braves had no idea what to do with Chris Bassitt. To be fair, Chris Bassitt also didn’t know what to do with Chris Bassitt. He went 13 up, 13 down to start the game, with five strikeouts. Eddie Rosario broke up the perfecto with a double, and then Bassitt unraveled. He hit Ozzie Albies, then also hit Travis d’Arnaud, and then walked Harris. At this point, you might be thinking, if you didn’t follow this game and are just reading the recap: “Huh? How did the Braves score zero runs in this game, then?” The answer, is, again: confusion. Rosario, for who-knows-what reason, tried to take third as part of this sequence, and was gunned down. The Harris walk brought up Orlando Arcia with the bases juiced and two outs, and Arcia fouled out in a 2-0 count.
Oh, but the Braves had other chances. Right after wasting that chance, they had a crack at Bassitt with the dreaded 3TTO portion of the game. Acuña singled to start the sixth, with the Braves now down 1-0. Olson then walked. Up came Austin Riley... and hit a bouncer to Matt Chapman at third for a 5-3 double play. Welp. Next was Sean Murphy, who barreled a ball, only to have it caught in left field. Double welp. That was it, as the Braves didn’t get another baserunner after Olson’s walk. Bassitt ended up not throwing a Maddux, but completed the shutout by retiring the top four in the Atlanta order when facing them for a fourth time. Riley and Murphy struck out to end the game. Given Riley’s prolonged approach struggles, one wonders whether we’re getting to the point where a lack of progress over the next two weeks might see him shunted elsewhere in the lineup.
In the end, it’s just one game, but this was a pretty bad one, save for Strider being awesome. The Braves will hope for fewer negative status effects tomorrow, which will be a 3:07 pm ET start.