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Braves power up, top Brewers 10-7

The bats came through in erasing multiple deficits, backing Yonny Chirinos in his Braves debut

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With their assortment of pitching injuries and defensive lapses, the question for the Braves lately has been, “Can they hit enough to overcome all the other warts?” On Friday night, the offense answered with a resounding “Yes!” as the bats overcame multiple deficits and provided enough of a cushion for the Braves to withstand a shaky relief inning and pull out a 10-7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

While many of the Braves’ fireworks happened relatively late in the game, the big story at the beginning was the Braves debut of Yonny Chirinos, who was acquired on waivers from the Rays earlier in the week. In the end, Chirinos’ outing was kind of a mixed bag, although he didn’t really deserve the bad parts all that much. Chirinos worked an easy first inning, but then immediately got into a mess in the second, without doing much wrong. Nascent Braves nemesis Sal Frelick started the top of the second by hitting a 50-50 liner into left-center, where Eddie Rosario chugged over to get it so slowly that Frelick easily made it to second base for a double. A seeing-eye single to right put runners on the corners, and then it was Bad Defense Time. Abraham Toro hit a weak grounder to Ozzie Albies, who semi-booted it and had to settle for the out at first rather than retiring the lead runner; Frelick scored on the play. Tyrone Taylor followed with a perfect weak dunk into center to make it 2-0, with the second run largely on Albies’ shoulders.

After a very easy third against the top of Milwaukee’s order, Chirinos had a bit of a reprise of his second inning in the fourth. Frelick again led off with a hit, this time a weak roller that got through the infield. After a wild pitch and a walk, it was Abraham Toro’s turn to mirror Taylor’s dunker from the second, which loaded the bases with none out. Chirinos almost managed to get out of it, striking out Taylor and then getting a pop-up from Brice Turang on the third of three consecutive splitters all throw to the same place (low-and-in corner), but it was not to be. Chirinos’ first pitch to nine-place hitter Joey Wiemer was a terrible grooved sinker, and Wiemer didn’t actually hit it well, hitting a relatively easy ball to center field... except the Braves had the outfield playing him the other way, and Michael Harris II was way too far away to catch it, giving Wiemer a two-run double. That was it for Chirinos, who was, surprisingly (to me, anyway) given the 18-and-out treatment. Collin McHugh came in and struck out Christian Yelich with two on to end the frame, and then threw a scoreless fifth for good measure.

The above described how the Brewers scored four runs: two in the second, and two more in the fourth. The Braves didn’t score in the first due to another recent bugbear: horrible baserunning. Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the bottom of the first with a walk and moved to second on an almost-cheap-homer by Albies that was instead just a loud flyout, but then was doubled off when he took off running on a pitch Austin Riley popped out to first. Acuña actually made it back to second ahead of the throw, but he didn’t re-tag third base on his way back, and thus ended an early scoring chance.

No matter, though, as the Braves roared back after falling behind against Adrian Houser in the second. With two outs, Marcell Ozuna drew a walk, and a double from Rosario put the tying runs in scoring position. Orlando Arcia knocked them in with a 107 mph single through the infield, and after a flare from Harris moved Arcia up, Acuña drove in the go-ahead run with a hard-hit single off Turang’s glove at second base.

Then, in the fourth, trailing due to Wiemer’s double, Ozuna immediately erased the deficit by taking Houser out to left field for a solo shot.

The Braves went 18-and-out with Chirinos. In a tie game, Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell had a chance to do the same with Houser and remove him before the third time through. He didn’t, and paid a pretty big price, as Houser didn’t retire anyone past the 18th batter. Acuña started the frame by smashing a 111 mph liner off the third baseman’s glove for a single. Then he stole second, and Albies brought him in with a hard single to right for a 5-4 lead the Braves wouldn’t relinquish. Riley followed with a single to put runners on the corners, and that was it for Houser, but not for the Braves. Matt Olson hit a sac fly off lefty specialist Hoby Milner, and Sean Murphy walked before Milner struck out both Ozuna and Rosario.

Newcomber Pierce Johnson threw a scoreless sixth, following McHugh. Albies helped him out by turning a hard smash from Turang into a double play ball to end the inning. Old friend Bryse Wilson threw a scoreless bottom of the sixth. Joe Jimenez worked around a two-out double in the seventh. Then the Braves really got out of hand. First, Riley and Olson hit back-to-back homers off Wilson.

Murphy followed with a single, Ozuna doubled down the line, and that was it for Wilson. But it wasn’t it for the Braves, as Rosario made it a 10-4 game by singling to left off new pitcher J.C. Mejia. Only after that blow did Arcia contribute the c-c-c-c-combo breaker of making an out, and the Braves wouldn’t score again. Not that they really needed it.

Ben Heller, entering the game with a six-run lead, had a nightmare outing: walk, single, three-run homer, groundout, walk. Heller now has both an FIP and xFIP above 5.00, and also has an option remaining — two things that bode very poorly for his continued stay on the roster. With the lead down to three runs, Kirby Yates wrapped up the eighth and Raisel Iglesias went 1-2-3 in the ninth with no blemishes.

The Braves improve to 65-36; their division lead remains unchanged at 10 games. We’ll see if they can outslug all their other problems again tomorrow night, with a Bryce Elder-Julio Teheran rematch on tap.

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