Friday, October 1, 2021
Of course both of my kids had games on Thursday night, causing my attention towards the Braves-Phillies game to suffer. But Atlanta wasn’t waiting on me. After beating Philly 5-3 in the series finale last night, the Braves are — for the fourth time in a row — division champs.
Atlanta did what it’s done this entire Phillies series — the lineup struck early. In the Braves half of the opening inning, with a full-count, lead-off hitter Jorge Soler nearly hit a 92-MPH fastball out of the stadium to put the Bravos up 1-0.
The Phillies had an opportunity to answer in the second, following a walk, a double and an intentional free pass, but Braves starter Ian Anderson got Kyle Gibson to cue a bases-loaded groundout to end the threat. From there, Anderson would set down 11 of the next 12 batters. The righty only struck out two on the night, but he did a nice job of keeping the ball on the dirt, inducing seven groundouts in the outing.
In the meantime, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson tacked on a pair of runs in the fourth as the former blasted a breaking ball into the Phillies bullpen for a solo-homer and the latter slapped an RBI double.
Through six innings, Atlanta led 5-0 and looked to be cruising to a division clincher.
But in Philly’s half of the seventh, things got interesting. Brad Miller led off against Anderson with a single, and then Andrew McCutchen somehow got to a perfectly-placed pitch for a golfed two-run homer. Just like that, the Phillies were back in it, down 5-2.
Fortunately, though, Braves manager Brian Snitker went with his dominant-of-late bullpen and gave Anderson the hook. Snitker called upon reliever A.J. Minter and the lefty worked through the frame mostly unscathed.
Luke Jackson came on to start the eighth, but once again the Phillies added a late-innings run when J.T. Realmuto turned on a hanger by Jackson.
However, that would be as close as Philly would come to a comeback. Jackson settled down and got a third out to end the inning, and in the ninth, Will Smith set down McCutchen, Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes in order. The Braves did it!
The Braves victory on Thursday guarantees the team an NLDS matchup with the Brewers, who I’ll preview soon. Atlanta has just three games remaining, all with the Mets over the weekend. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and the team’s core players can get some much-needed rest before the postseason cranks up next week. Congrats to this club. It was a helluva regular season!