In the preview for tonight’s game, I mentioned that Joe Ryan was coming into this game on a bit of a heater. After all, his most recent outing was a dominant complete game shutout and he had been doing well over a string of performances. That string came to a very loud end tonight, as the Braves gave Ryan an extremely rude welcome to Cobb County. It all started with the very first pitch that he threw, which Ronald Acuña Jr. proceeded to demolish and send flying into the home bullpen to tie the game at one run apiece.
That was only the beginning of the onslaught. Ozzie Albies immediately followed it up with a triple and then Austin Riley not only brought home Ozzie but brought himself right back home with a round-tripper to put the Braves ahead, 3-1. Matt Olson struck out and for a moment, you could imagine that Joe Ryan was thinking that maybe order would be restored. Instead, Sean Murphy announced his return to the lineup by hitting a no-doubter to left-center to make it a four-run inning for the Braves and another successful first-inning attack in general for Atlanta.
While Joe Ryan was able to get out of the first inning without sustaining any more damage, the Braves still weren't done with Ryan. This time, the dynamic 9-1 combo of Michael Harris II and Ronald Acuña Jr. proceeded to hit Ryan with a mean double-team effort. Harris fell behind 0-2 to Ryan but that didn't matter once Ryan hung a slider square in the middle of the zone. Money Mike made no mistake with the meatball and once the ball landed, it was stuck in the back of a light fixture on the Chop House and the score was 5-1.
Ryan then had to face Acuña and actually got into a decent battle at the plate in his attempt to get Atlanta's leadoff hitter out. Fortunately for us fans, Acuña won the battle in emphatic fashion and he hit his second dinger in as many innings — this time to the road bullpen in left field. The home run put Acuña nearly on pace for what would be a patently absurd 40 homer/70 stolen base season, which would be the stuff of legends. With the way that he's been playing this season, I honestly wouldn't put it past him at this point.
Acuña's second homer of the night made it 6-1 Braves and this ended up being another good night for Bryce Elder as he took advantage of the run support. Despite Elder not being particularly dominant (he gave up four walks and four hits) and his backing defense being very wobbly to start things off, Elder was still able to keep the Twins from doing any serious damage and kept on finding ways out of any trouble he may have found himself in. One of Minnesota's two runs on the night actually came on a throw to home plate from Eddie Rosario that was ruled an error due to the fact that the ball hit Joey Gallo on his way to home plate.
Despite that being Atlanta's fourth error of the night (which included the Braves somehow managing to commit two errors on one play), the Braves still had a pair of defensive gems to show off on the night. Ronald Acuña Jr. continued to make difficult plays look fun and exciting as he made this backhanded catch to rob Royce Lewis of a big hit in the fourth inning.
The other beautiful play came in the very next inning, which is when Ozzie Albies made a diving stop on a grounder from Max Kepler. That alone was impressive enough since it robbed Kepler of a hit but instead of being satisfied with that, Ozzie flipped the ball to Orlando Arcia, who fired the ball to Matt Olson at first base to pick up the out. You're not going to see a 4-6-3 play for just one out very often but that's why we tune in every night, right? There's always a chance to see something unique and this definitely fit the bill in that regard.
Bryce Elder eventually finished the night with six solid innings under his belt where he only gave up two runs. Michael Tonkin was called upon to take the Braves further into the night and once again, he was up for the task of pitching multiple innings. Tonkin pitched another two scoreless innings to make it an impressive eight-straight outings where he's gone at least two innings. His past three outings have been very impressive, as he's gone 9.2 innings with three hits given up, four walks conceded, 11 strikeouts and zero runs allowed.
That set the stage for Ben Heller to finish things off and his second appearance of this series went off without a hitch. Heller pitched a scoreless ninth with just a harmless hit allowed and once he was done, Atlanta was busy celebrating their 52nd win of the season. The Braves are now 19-4 this month, which is eerily similar to the tear that they went on last June that really kickstarted their season into high gear. The Braves may not have been limping into June like they were last season but this boost in form has been welcomed with open arms nonetheless. They now have an opportunity to pick up a sweep with a win tomorrow afternoon with the matinee scheduled to start at 12:20 PM E.T.