The Braves did not have a fun time in Milwaukee in early July, dropping three of four games. While it remains to be seen how the rest of this series will turn out, Atlanta began repaying the favor in the opener, dismantling the Brewers by a 10-1 tally with an offensive barrage while Kevin Gausman dominated on the hill.
The box score really tells the story in this one: the Braves pounded out 13 hits and reached base eight more times via walk. Only two members of the starting lineup went hitless: Ozzie Albies went 0-for-2 but walked three times... which is as many walks as he drew in all of June, and three times as many as he had since the beginning of July... and Dansby Swanson, who went 0-for-4 as his offensive struggles continued. The remainder of the lineup threw in some superlative offensive performances, with:
- Ronald Acuña Jr. collecting three hits, one of them a double;
- Nick Markakis going 2-for-3 with a walk, with both of hits going for doubles, while driving in three and scoring three runs;
- Johan Camargo collecting four hits, two of them doubles, in five tries, with two runs and two RBI; and
- Ender Inciarte going 2-for-5 with a double of his own, while knocking in four.
The runs came fast and furious, as early as the bottom of the first. A two-out Nick Markakis double to left center scored Ozzie Albies, and then Johan Camargo hit a donut hole double that dropped in just past Milwaukee third baseman Mike Moustakas. Ender Inciarte then drove something between a grounder and a liner to shortstop Jonathan Schoop’s right, scoring Camargo and giving the Braves a 3-0 lead. Two innings later, the Braves turned a one-out walk to Markakis and two consecutive doubles from Camargo and Inciarte into two additional runs. The bottom of the fourth saw the Braves chase Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta, as they went single-walk-Freddie Freeman RBI single to start the frame. A seventh run scored as Markakis greeted new pitcher Jordan Lyles with a sacrifice fly.
Two innings after that, the Braves tagged on three additional runs to cap the scoring. Still facing Lyles, Acuña hit a leadoff single and moved to second as Lyles walked Freeman. Markakis them slammed a double into right field past Eric Thames that scored one, and Johan Camargo rolled an RBI single that scored another. Ender Inciarte then hit a grounder and beat the relay throw from second to give the Braves their tenth run.
Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman was painting a beautiful portrait of dominance on the mound. After allowing a two-out double to Moustakas in the top of the first, he eviscerated Jesus Aguilar on three pitches, ending the inning with his wicked split-change that dove below the zone and got a silly swing. That was not the only instance of his split-change bamboozling the Milwaukee offense, as it happened repeatedly. He got Christian Yelich with it in the third, threw three straight splitters (swinging strike, called strike, swinging strike) to retire Travis Shaw in the fourth, and then went from 1-1 to 1-3 via two splitters on Schoop to close out four innings of work. Thames went down on three pitches (last two were splitters) to start the fifth, Schoop started the seventh by going down on three straight splitters (at least he fouled one off), and Gausman even changed it up by striking out Yelich in the eighth with three four-seamers, still throwing 95 mph as the game thundered to a close.
But, of course, those were just the highlights. All in all, the Brewers managed just six hits off Gausman. He needed just 94 pitches to finish eight innings, and amazingly, he threw 71 strikes. Gausman had a three-ball count just once all game, and that led to the game’s only run, as Moustakas drilled a get-me-over 3-1 fastball off the right-field facade for his second double. Jesus Aguilar then drove Moustakas in with a lined single to right center — one wonders whether Gausman could have retired him with a third splitter in a row, but he chose to throw his four-seamer instead. In any case, that was not nearly enough for the Brewers tonight, and Gausman cruised through eight, retiring seven of the last eight batters he faced.
Chad Sobotka, just added to the roster today, made his MLB debut in impressive fashion to yank the curtain down on the game. Sobotka came in throwing 97 and retired Aguilar for his first career strikeout with a letter-high 98 mph fastball on the outer edge of the plate. Eight pitches and two groundouts later, the game was over, and the Braves were victorious, clinching their 63rd victory of the year.
My favorite insane stat of this game: Gausman went to two-ball counts on six batters. He retired 14 batters without throwing a ball. I just... insane. Insanity is what it was. Great fun at SunTrust Park tonight, folks. Let’s hope it continues as the Braves charge on to the postseason.