Just like that, baseball is back. Just like that, the Braves’ bullpen imploded. But hey, it’s Spring Training, and the games don’t count.
The Braves and Mets clopped along at a rapid pace for the first few innings in Port St. Lucie. Matt Wisler allowed just a couple of hits, while Mets pitching got seven strikeouts in the first four innings. The Braves struck first on a comedy of Mets errors in the fifth: Danny Santana started the inning against New York hurler Christopher Flexen (“Whatcha doin’? Oh, you know, just Flexen!”) with a succesful bunt single, and replacement third baseman David Thompson then booted a grounder off the bat of Dustin Peterson to put runners on first and second. Alex Jackson, playing the DH role in the day’s contest, knocked a liner to left that was not successfully converted into a catch by a sliding Matt den Dekker in left field; Santana scored easily from second as the cutoff man decided to pump-fake a throw to second rather than try to get the runner at home.
The Atlanta pitching was doing very well at keeping the Mets at bay. Matt Wisler, Chase Whitley, Sam Freeman, and Rule 5 selection Anyelo Gomez all kept the Mets mostly off the bases, allowing just two hits (both allowed by Wisler) and two walks between them. Kolby Allard came in to pitch the sixth and was both very wild and showing diminished velocity, averaging 89 miles-per-hour-ish on his fastball. Allard walked the first batter he faced, and looked to be in big trouble as Patrick Biondi hooked a deep looping liner into the right-field corner. But, Allard ended up being bailed out by a great catch courtesy of Xavier Avery, who also doubled the runner off of first after coming down with the ball.
Rex Brothers then pitched an uneventful seventh for Atlanta.
After that, it was quiet again until the eighth, when Austin Riley and Carlos Franco drew back-to-back walks against Tyler Bashlor (which is not really a good name for a pitcher). That brought up Cristian Pache, who leveled off on the first pitch he saw, a high fastball, lining it into the left field corner. Riley scored easily, but Pache forgot there was a runner ahead of him, leading to a forceout on the bases.
The bottom of the eighth, though, is when things got very unfortunate for the Braves. Miguel Socolovich came in and everything got all discombobulated from the very beginning. Socolovich hit the first batter he saw with a pitch on the knuckle, and the next batter hit a groundball that was booted by second baseman Ray-Patrick Didder. The next batter, Zach Borenstein, drilled a ball into left-center that went way over the head of Pache, who was playing very shallow, leading to a tie game. Socolovich then managed to elicit two more groundouts before totally falling apart, walking three of the next four batters and allowing an RBI single to the other that went off the glove of Isranel Wilson in left field. By the time Socolovich left the game, he had allowed four runs to score. Akeel Morris was summoned from the bullpen and just ended up pouring more flames on the fire, walking the next two batters he faced to drive in two more runs. The Mets sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning. Yikes.
The Braves then added insult to injury by doing something you don’t see very often, not even in a Spring Training game. Here, I’ll let MLB.com’s Gameday feature sum it up for you:
Game advisory indeed: parental discretion advised. I’ll let some random Mets fan from today’s game relay my feelings on this:
Your non-verbal headshake says it all, random Mets fan that’s somehow upset at the first Spring Training game of the year. The Braves went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, and that was that. But, baseball is back, everyone! Rejoice!
The Braves collected seven hits and two walks in the game, with no batter reaching base twice or collecting an extra-base hits. Rio Ruiz had a miserable day, striking out each of the three times he was up. Ozzie Albies led off the first with a sharp liner up the middle, stole a base, and made a strong turn to convert a double play. The Braves’ Grapefruit League action continues tomorrow as they head to take on the Astros in West Palm Beach.