Nick Markakis drilled a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th and Jesse Biddle navigated around a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning to deliver a tortured victory in a see-saw affair during their matinee finale in New York against the Mets.
The first third or so of the game was not an auspicious start for the Braves, and could best be described as “demoralizing.” Julio Teheran, once again, featured subpar command and results. In the first, a leadoff walk to Amed Rosario led to a stolen base. Two batters later, after Rosario moved to third on a groundout, Wilmer Flores drilled a pitch back to Teheran that knocked off his glove. Rosario scored easily as Teheran searched for the ball, and Flores reached first safely before the throw. A one-out walk to Jose Reyes potentially spelled more trouble for Teheran in the second, especially after he balked Reyes to second, but Kurt Suzuki threw him out on an attempt to steal third and no runs ended up scoring.
However, Teheran was not so fortunate in the third, as another leadoff walk to Rosario once again came to roost. This time, it was courtesy of a double into the right-field corner by Jeff McNeil. Teheran was able to strand McNeil at second, but the Braves were down 2-0, and would go down 3-0 on an Austin Jackson homer in the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Braves had a whale of a time with New York starter Corey Oswalt, but by “whale,” I don’t mean “Hey, this is really fun.” Rather, it was a brutal first four-plus innings for the Atlanta offense. The Braves strung together back-to-back two-out singles in the first, but Kurt Suzuki grounded out to third to end that rally. They only managed one other hit in the next three innings, and Oswalt cruised through his second time through the lineup even more easily than he had the first time. It looked like the floodgates might have opened when Julio Teheran finally made great contact and drilled one of his 90 mph fastballs over the left-center wall for a solo home run, but Oswalt worked another inning-and-a-third of scoreless, one-hit work to continue stifling Atlanta.
Teheran, meanwhile, worked a scoreless fifth after his home run, and the game remained 3-1. In the bottom of the sixth, the Braves turned a once-of-a-kind defensive play after back-to-back Mets singles began the inning. Jose Bautista rolled a pitch to Johan Camargo at third, and Camargo fired to Ozzie Albies at second for the first out. Albies then threw home to Kurt Suzuki for a tag-out of the runner that started the play at third. Score that a 5-4-2 double play, something I’ve definitely never seen before. Unfortunately, Julio Teheran ended up walking the next batter, which spelled the end of his afternoon. He finished his outing with three runs and nine total baserunners in five and two-thirds, with a 6/4 K/BB ratio and one homer allowed. Jonny Venters came on in Teheran’s relief and retired Jose Reyes on a groundout to quash the rally.
After that, the Braves went to work, finally chasing Oswalt. Johan Camargo led off the inning with a single up the middle, and then Ender Inciarte tomahawked a neck-level fastball that was likely above the zone into right field for a ringing two-run homer that tied the game. The Braves then put the go-ahead run on base thanks to a bunt single by Dansby Swanson, but after a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt from Ryan Flaherty against new reliever Paul Sewald, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a routine fly, and Ozzie Albies grounded out against lefty specialist Jerry Blevins to leave the game tied.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brad Brach worked around a one-out walk to hurl a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. A one-out Nick Markakis single off Blevins did not reward Atlanta in the top of the eighth, as Seth Lugo came on in relief of Blevins and retired Suzuki and Camargo. Dan Winkler then struck out the side in the eighth, allowing a one-out single to Michael Conforto but nothing else.
The ninth was the cause celebre for much excitement, as Inciarte again came up huge. He hit a leadoff single off Lugo, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Swanson, and scored the go-ahead run when Acuña fought off a Lugo curveball that hung over the plate into right field for a line-drive single. But, the escape from New York would not take place in regulation: A.J. Minter was unable to channel his inner Snake Pliskin and allowed a one-out solo homer to Devin Mesoraco, which was initially ruled a double but converted into a homer by umpire replay review. Minter then allowed another hit, a single to pinch-hitter Brandon Nimmo, but retired Rosario and pinch-hitter Kevin Plawecki to send the game to extras.
The tie game did not stay tied for long: Nick Markakis hit a one-out solo homer to right center against new reliever Tyler Bashlor to cap the scoring, to win the Snake Pliskin honors for the day. Jesse Biddle came on to slam the door, and things looked very dicey at first, as he allowed a leadoff double down the right-field line to noted lefty-killer Wilmer Flores. A routine groundout from Conforto to second moved Flores over to third, and there was a chance the escape would be delayed once again. But, Biddle got Jose Bautista to roll to third on a grounder that forced Flores to stay put. Two pitches later, Todd Frazier hit a roller to short that was easily handled by Dansby Swanson to mercifully end the game with a victory for Atlanta.
Nick Markakis ended the day 4-for-5 with his game-winning homer. Ender Inciarte chipped in a 3-for-4 day with a big two-run blast of his own. The Atlanta relief corps pitched four and a third frames with only one run allowed, and most critically, just one walk.
Julio Teheran once again failed to subdue a weak lineup, and one wonders how long his performance can continue to be allowed to make turns in the rotation, as his combination of a weakness against lefties, issues going through the order multiple times, and allowance of too many walks and homers has proven somewhat deadly to his outings so far this year. The Mets, who are averaging just 3.8 runs per game since the start of July, managed to notch three runs off of him without Brandon Nimmo, and it could have been worse had the Braves defense and Jonny Venters not bailed him out in the sixth.
The Phillies won again tonight, polishing off a sweep of the Marlins. The Braves remain 1.5 games back in the division, but the best result the Braves can control on any given day is a win, and that’s what they got today. Onward to an off-day on Monday, and a brutal stretch of game after game following that, starting with a doubleheader to kick off a four-game series in Washington.