Thursday was not short on news for the Atlanta Braves, with Freddie Freeman in the lineup just one day after a severe injury scare and Matt Wisler taking the mound in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez. At the end of the evening, though, the team picked up a second consecutive win and began a weekend series against the New York Mets on a high note with a 12-4 victory.
The evening began in encouraging fashion, as it was the Braves that struck first on the scoreboard. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies generated back-to-back singles to open the first inning and, after Inciarte advanced to third base, Freddie Freeman provided a sacrifice fly to give Atlanta the lead. From there, Nick Markakis lined out but, on cue, Kurt Suzuki continued his torrid pace from the last year-plus with a two-run home run to give the Braves a three-run cushion.
After a quiet second inning on both sides, the Braves created more fireworks in the bottom of the third. Albies led things off with a double and he was brought to the plate on an RBI single from Markakis. From there, Suzuki doubled to place two runners in scoring position and Preston Tucker cleared the bases with a two-run double to give Wisler a six-run lead.
Given the way that the 25-year-old was pitching, that was more than enough wiggle room. Aside from a mistake on a solo home run by New York’s Todd Frazier to lead off the fifth inning, Wisler was nearly flawless. The right-hander sported a devastating slider throughout the evening, operating with confidence and command, and the end result was a scoreless, seven-inning showing with eight strikeouts and only two hits (and no walks) allowed.
As Wisler was primed for a well-earned seat on the bench, the Braves kept scoring in the seventh. With singles from Freeman and Markakis and a walk from Suzuki, Atlanta loaded the bases with two outs for Tucker and, in game-sealing fashion, the left fielder stroked a double down the right-field line to bring the margin to 9-1.
The home team wasn’t done just yet, either, as Dansby Swanson contributed his first hit of the night, plating Tucker on a double to left-center field. That was the extent of the offensive damage for Atlanta in the seventh, though Lucas Sims (taking over for Wisler in mop-up duty) struggled mightily in the eighth, taking the blame for three earned runs and making things at least slightly interesting.
The end result was never in doubt, however, and the Braves plated two additional runs in the bottom of the eighth for good measure. Atlanta’s bullpen managed to preserve the massive cushion from there and that was the end of that.
While there was plenty of offense on this particular night, it was Wisler that emerged as the story of the evening. At the very least, Wisler earned a second opportunity in the rotation and, with the way his slider played in this particular spot, there is some reason for optimism that his uptick (although maybe not to this degree of dominance) could continue.
The Braves and Mets will get together once again on Friday evening, with Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb scheduled to face off with New York’s Noah Syndergaard. Stay tuned.