The result of this game was pretty much expected, even if baseball is anything but predictable: the Braves played host to the Pirates and walloped them by an 8-2 score. The actual goings-on in the game? A mix of stuff you could have predicted, and stuff that no one would’ve bet on.
Unexpected: Bryce Elder, after weeks of wandering in the wilderness, appeared to find something. Sure, it was the Pirates, who have a pretty awful offense. But that pretty awful offense nonetheless gave him some trouble a few starts ago, and lest we forget, Elder came into this game with 12 consecutive starts where either his FIP or his xFIP exceeded 4.50. This game, though, served as a palate cleanser and/or c-c-c-combo breaker, reader’s choice. Elder notched a fantastic 9/1 K/BB ratio, with a 2.57 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 2.30 xFIP on the night. The only blemish against him came when Jack Suwinski clubbed a two-run shot off of him... but that happened during the third time through, after the Braves already had an 8-0 lead, and Elder was just giving the team length at that point. No biggie. The obvious reason for Elder’s success? A whiff rate north of 50 percent on his slider. Setting it up, perhaps, was an increased changeup usage rate — the changeup itself didn’t do much on the night, but having that third pitch may have set more guys up for slider evisceration. Next up for Elder? Showing he can do it again his next time, and riding out the rest of the season more like he started it.
Unexpected: The Braves busted this game open against Mitch Keller in the third with... six... singles. Yeah, this Braves team, putting up a four-spot with singles. It was Invasion of the Body-Snatching 2022 Mets, or something. Seriously, this is the lowdown on that four-run inning, and it makes me feel as dirty as I would owning a conflict diamond or something:
For those of you that have an aversion to images, let me be clear: the Braves had six singles in the inning, with none being hard-hit (over 95 mph), and four of them hit under 80 mph. For this team, which swings with glorious purpose, righteous indignation, but also reckless abandon, it was really strange.
Expected: But then, things got back on track. After that four-run inning, Mitch Keller faced Ronald Acuña Jr. as the leadoff batter for the second consecutive inning, and, well... Team Braves Opponents is blasting off again!
Want a fun research project? Go look at how the maestro’s swing, launch angle, and/or swing decisions have changed over the last week or so. He smells blood in the water, and by blood I mean “40 or more homers” and by water I mean “the 2023 season.” Keep it up, shark boy, it’s so fun to watch you rake.
Also, Eddie Rosario added a two-run shot of his own that was also quite crushed. Thanks for leaving your starters in the third time through, other MLB teams, the Braves’ chase for the single-season homer record appreciates it.
The Braves later added another run, as an Acuña single plated Orlando Arcia after a double.
Expected-ish: Keller blew up again. It happens. This game was kind of brutal to him — his outing was unfairly capsized by the body-snatched Braves blooping things everywhere, and then he was hung out to dry in low leverage as the Braves played piñata with his laundry. (Sorry, this metaphor kind of fell apart. Too late to go back and erase, though.)
Anyway, that was pretty much this game in a nutshell. The Braves got the leadoff man on in two of the three non-Keller innings the Pirates pitched in this game, but didn’t score anyone else. Dylan Lee escaped a two-on situation in the eighth with a lineout double play, and Ben Heller threw an easy ninth to wrap it up.
The 92-win-and-it’s-September-8 Braves will go for a 93rd win tomorrow. Dylan Dodd will apparently be starting tomorrow.