Sunday, August 22, 2021
It’s crazy to think about, but there once was a time this season in which Drew Smyly seemed like the worst starting pitcher in baseball. Seriously, up until around mid-June of this year, the guy was atrocious. You have to look at Smyly’s 2021 season in two halves to see just how stark the improvement has been. There’s his first 11 starts… and then his last 11 starts…
First 11 starts — 56 IP, 5.63 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Last 11 starts – 55 IP, 3.44 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
If you can get past the three homers allowed, last night was another strong start for Smyly. The veteran lefty once again allowed exactly three runs, which is something he’s done in six of his last eight outings, but he still managed to appear in control against the Orioles.
And once again the Braves offense delivered when needed. After trailing 1-0 through the first two innings, Atlanta answered in the third when Dansby Swanson demolished a 93-MPH fastball to right-center field to score Jorge Soler AND Freddie Freeman.
The lineup kept it going in the fourth, as still up 2-1, outfielder Joc Pederson went deep with his 15th homer of the 2021 season to put the Braves up by two…
However, two homers by Baltimore in its half of the fourth tied the game back up at three apiece, and it looked as if the Braves bullpen was going to need to be at its best to escape this one. Although that was before third baseman Austin Riley came to the plate in the fifth…
That long ball gives Riley 27 on the year as he continues to perform like an MVP candidate. His dinger put the Braves up 4-3 and all Atlanta needed to do was keep things where they were to hold onto the win.
Smyly hit the showers after five and Richard Rodriguez took over and pitched the sixth in scoreless fashion, followed by Tyler Matzek in the seventh. Then in the eighth, Luke Jackson worked around two hits and Will Smith allowed a gut-punch of a home run in the ninth. But a sac-fly by Soler in that final frame made all the difference.
The win gives Atlanta eight victories in a row and a 9-1 record in its last ten. The Braves was the only NL East team to win on Saturday so its division lead increases to five over the second-place Phillies, seven over the Mets, 13.5 over the Nationals and 16.5 over the Marlins. Touki Toussaint and Atlanta – with William Contreras behind the plate – will go for the series sweep today, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM.
Down in Gwinnett, it was all about the middle of the lineup as the Stripers’ nos. 4-6 batters combined for 10 of the team’s 14 hits, including Travis Demeritte’s 4 for 4 performance. Rehabbing Eddie Rosario also continues to swing a hot bat as he finished with three hits…
Gwinnett’s starter, Jose Rodriguez, didn’t have his best stuff, however, the Stripers bullpen was perfect. The trio of Jesse Biddle, Yoan Lopez and Chasen Bradford combined to pitch three scoreless innings to hold onto the team’s big lead. Gwinnett’s offense scored an additional three runs late in the game and wound up coasting to a 10-4 win, giving them five consecutive victories.
The M-Braves game was rained out yesterday, so we move on to Rome. The R-Braves got into a bit of a pitcher’s duel as Mississippi’s Jared Shuster and Montgomery’s Brandon Walter wound up combining for 11 innings of five-hit ball, including just two earned runs and 12 strikeouts. However, the R-Braves bullpen performed better and ended up outlasting the Biscuits. A two-run sixth-inning, featuring a wild-pitch that scored Cody Milligan and an RBI single by Jesse Franklin, pushed Rome ahead for the 4-2 win.
Man it was a rough start for Augusta’s Chad Bryant, who allowed eight runs (three earned) from just two hits on Saturday night, thanks to four total errors by the GreenJackets defense. Batters Cal Conley, Vaughn Grissom and Bryson Horne all combined to finished 4 for 12 with three RBI, however, Augusta still wound up with the nine-run loss. Roddery Munoz appeared in the third and struggled as well, allowing three runs (two earned) in 2.1 innings.
The FCL Braves played a doubleheader against the Rays yesterday and ended up splitting the day. The Braves only managed five hits overall in Game 2’s 6-0 loss, but in Game, the baby Braves won 2-0 thanks to contributions from a pair of 2021 draftees – a bases-loaded walk by Adam Zebrowski and an RBI single by Caleb Durbin.
Here are scores and stats from Saturday’s action…
(67-56) ATLANTA BRAVES
W, 5-4 vs. Orioles
SP, D. Smyly – (W), 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 8 K, 3 HR
3B, A. Riley – 2 for 4, HR, RBI
SS, D. Swanson – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB
RF, J. Pederson – 2 for 4, HR, RBI
2B, O. Albies – 1 for 5, 2B
(55-40) GWINNETT STRIPERS
W, 10-4 vs. Louisville
SP, J. Rodriguez – (W), 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR
1B, T. Demeritte – 4 for 4, HR, 4 RBI
3B, S. Kazmar Jr. – 3 for 4, R
CF, C. Pache – 2 for 5, 2B
LF, E. Rosario – 3 for 5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R
(57-37) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES
PPD vs. Montgomery
Will make up game as part of a doubleheader today.
(42-52) ROME BRAVES
W, 4-2 vs. Greenville
SP, J. Shuster – (W), 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K
RP, E. Ramirez – (H), 2 IP, BB, 4 K
LF, J. Franklin – 1 for 3, RBI
2B, C. Milligan – 2 for 4, 2 R
RF, S. Michel – 1 for 3, 2 R, BB
(40-55) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS
L, 15-6 vs. Carolina
SP, C. Bryant – (L), 2 IP, 2 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, K, HR
1B, B. Horne – 2 for 4, RBI, BB
SS, V. Grissom – 1 for 5, 2B, RBI, R, SB
C, R. Rodriguez – 3 for 4, RBI, 2 R
RF, W. Carter – 1 for 3, 2B, R, SB
2B, C. Conley – 1 for 3, RBI, R, SB
(19-16) FCL BRAVES
W, 2-0 (F/7) vs. FCL Rays
L, 6-0 (F/7) vs. FCL Rays
SP, D. Florentino – IP, 4 BB
SP, R. Salinas – (L), 3 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 7 K
RP, E. Rodriguez – (W), 4 IP, 2 H, 2 K
CF, D. Campbell – 3 for 3
3B, G. Quintero – 2 for 4, R
C. Durbin – 2 for 3
DH, J, Fernando – 2 for 3, SB