The Braves and Dodgers, baseball’s two best teams, met in a possible October preview on Thursday night. The game lived up to the hype — it was historic, in fact — as Atlanta escaped with a thrilling 8-7 win.
The Dodgers struck first with their star tandem leading the way. Mookie Betts walked, Freddie Freeman shot a single to the gap, and Max Muncy brought home a runner on a fielder’s choice groundout (which Nicky Lopez nearly turned into a magical 4-6-3 double play).
The Braves battled back in a grand way. After loading the bases, Lopez drew a walk to tie the score at 1-1. Ronald Acuña Jr. stepped to the plate, and on a 2-2 pitch, he launched a ball into the Los Angeles night for a grand slam and his 30th of the season, becoming the first player in major league history to reach 30 homers and 60 steals. Not a bad way to cap off your wedding day.
Austin Riley followed two batters later with a solo homer of his own to make it 6-1. Michael Harris also crushed one in the fifth to extend the lead to 7-1.
It was Mookie’s turn to shine in the bottom of the fifth. With two on, two strikes and two outs, Betts took an outside fastball and bounced it off the top of the right field wall for a three-run blast. Acuña Jr. had a chance to reel it in but couldn’t quite get his glove up in time. It was the first homer Strider had allowed since July 26th.
The Braves benefitted from some poor defense in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Nicky Lopez bounced a ball to Muncy, who errantly threw it past Freeman at first. Following an intentional walk to Acuña, Michael Harris grounded a ball up the middle to make it 8-4. It was an impressive at bat for Harris against a tough lefty reliever in Alex Vesia.
Outside of the homer to Betts, it was another strong start from Strider. He struck out nine over six innings, allowing four hits and two walks in the process. His ERA sits at 3.56 on the season, and he moved up to 2nd in the majors in WAR at 4.8.
The Braves’ bullpen, which has been quite good lately, laid a dud on Thursday night. Joe Jimenez surrendered two solo homers in the seventh, and A.J. Minter began the eighth with a solo homer as well. Pierce Johnson had to enter in the eighth in relief of Minter to stop the bleeding and struck out Amed Rosario with two on and two out.
Raisel Iglesias, pitching for the third day in a row, entered for the ninth. He got Betts to fly out to deep right on the first pitch. Following a walk to Freeman, Will Smith singled through the left side. Max Muncy flew out for the second out. And with the game on the line, Iglesias dotted two fastballs on the corner and struck out Kiké Hernandez on a wipeout slider for the final out.
Big W.— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 1, 2023
88-45 record. pic.twitter.com/V1cQt8ABFs
Exhale. The Braves are 88-45.
In a showdown between the two MVP frontrunners, Acuña and Betts combined to go 5 for 8 with 3 homers, 8 RBI, 2 walks and a stolen base.
The series continues Friday night as Max Fried is set to face off with fellow southpaw Julio Urias (11-7, 4.41 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 4.03 xFIP), who has experienced an up and down season. Urias surrendered six runs in his most recent start in Boston but had been excellent otherwise in the month of August. First pitch is set for 10:10 p.m. ET.