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Braves’ broadsides bury Bucs in 13-7 bash

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The Braves hit all the homers and Sean Newcomb dazzled in relief.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Sometimes, you get a baseball game where everything happens. No, not literally everything (that would be impossible), but everything. This was one of those games. Luckily, there was more good in everything than bad, and the Braves prevailed by a 13-7 tally to win their fourth straight contest. With the Phillies trailing the Diamondbacks by five runs in the ninth at the time of me writing this sentence, there’s a decent chance the Braves will be tied atop the NL East by the time I finish and publish this recap for the first time all season.

This game was billed as Round 2 of Joe Musgrove and Kevin Gausman, after those two scheduled starters faced off last Wednesday in a 7-4 Pirates win where Gausman was shelled and Musgrove pitched into the ninth. However, neither starter stuck around or made much of an impact in this game.

Musgrove departed first. In the bottom of the first, the Braves had a man on third with two out and Musgrove’s first pitch to Josh Donaldson came high and tight and ended up grazing his uniform. As Donaldson walked to first base, he apparently exchanged some words with Musgrove, which led to catcher Elias Diaz getting in Donaldson’s way and being shoved aside, and then the benches cleared and more words were said and it was all very dramatic for a few minutes. When the metaphorical dust cleared, the umpiring crew ejected Donaldson and Musgrove, as well as Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. The Braves lost their starting third baseman, but the Pirates lost their starting pitcher, and had to go to their terrible bullpen, which ended up working out well for the Braves. The Pirates inserted Alex McRae into the game in Musgrove’s stead, and McRae struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning, but that was about all that went right for him.

Gausman, too, did not have an awesome go of it. Coming off the worst two-start stretch of his career, he did not really redeem himself. He allowed a run in the first that wasn’t quite his fault, as Ronald Acuña Jr. turned a two-out single from Starling Marte into a man on second by misplaying his grounder up the middle. Then, Josh Bell hit another grounder through the hole on the left side, scoring Marte. Gausman collected his second strikeout of the frame to end it. Gausman allowed a smashed leadoff single in the second that went off the right-field wall, but struck out another two batters for a scoreless frame. But, he didn’t make it out of the third. After another leadoff single, Gausman got a comebacker off the bat of Bryan Reynolds and fired the ball to second, but his throw bounced well before the bag and could not be corraled by Dansby Swanson. Gausman visibly pounded the mound in frustration afterwards, and then threw a first-pitch fastball over the plate to Marte, who deposited it into center field for a three-run homer. The pitch selection seemed at least a little questionable, as Marte had already seen two fastballs from Gausman earlier in the game and mashed one of them for a hit, and the result was highly unfortunate. Two batters later, Gausman issued a walk to Josh Bell and was yanked from the game. His final line: seven outs, five hits, four runs (two earned), one walk, four strikeouts, one homer allowed.

So, four runs allowed by Gausman without escaping the third seems bad, right? But, it wasn’t problematic for the Braves, because as mentioned, Alex McRae was having a much worse time of it. Starting his first full inning in the bottom of the second, McRae hit Austin Riley with a pitch, and then walked Brian McCann. With one out, McRae struck out Gausman, but the ball got past his catcher and Gausman reached first on a strikeout, loading the bases. It did not take very long for Acuña to unload them.

Pro tip: don’t throw 79 mph anything where that one ended up.

The Braves weren’t done in that frame, either. After Swanson drew a walk and advanced to second on a fly out, Nick Markakis hit a two-out single to drive him in, making it 5-1 Braves. That was the cushion needed to render Marte’s three-run bomb insufficient to erase the deficit. After said walk to Bell, Sean Newcomb came on to replace Gausman and began his dazzling work. With one out and a man on, he got the first hitter he faced, Polanco, to hit into a double play, and off he went.

Oh, but the Braves weren’t done offensively, either. With McRae still in there, Ozzie Albies lifted an opposite-field homer to make it 6-4. The next inning, Swanson again drew a walk, and scored on another opposite-field homer, this time by Freddie Freeman. (The big fly had a very low hit probability and just made it past the wall, but it still counts!) McRae finally worked a scoreless fifth, but in the sixth, Nick Markakis notched another RBI single off new reliever Geoff Hartlieb for his 1,000th career RBI. Albies then added another opposite-field homer, his second of the day, against Hartlieb in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Sean Newcomb just mowed down Pirate after Pirate. He faced the minimum, but for a fielding error by Johan Camargo (replacing Donaldson at third) to lead off the fourth and a leadoff double by Diaz in the seventh. He struck out six in 4 23 innings of work, issuing no walks; aside from the double, the highest hit probability ball in play against him was just 42 percent, and the five others (aside from the error) had hit probabilities of 16 percent or below. When he entered, the Braves were up 5-4; when he left, they were up 10-4.

As Newcomb departed in the eighth, things got momentarily dicey. Jerry Blevins came on and promptly issued another homer to Starling Marte. You have to feel for Marte a bit — hitting two homers in the same game is probably always awesome, but just that much less awesome when your team is being keelhauled by the opposition. Blevins retired two of the next three batters but was then pulled in favor of Daniel Winkler, who failed to record an out, yielding single, walk, two-run single that brought the Pirates to within three. Braves skipper Brian Snitker had seen enough at that point from Winkler, yanking him for Jacob Webb, who induced a groundout to end the frame. Dicey-ness over, however: the Braves got those three runs right back in the bottom of the eighth against Montana DuRapau. The first four batters all reached base against DuRapau, with Camargo hitting an RBI single and then Markakis walloping a ball into the right-field seats for his fifth homer of the year. After a wRC+ that dropped steadily down to 100 over the past few weeks, Markakis pushed it back up to 109 with his 4-for-5 effort tonight.

In probably the least dramatic inning of the night, Webb tossed a scoreless ninth to seal the victory, though he did walk a batter in the process.

So, there you have it: the Braves hit five homers en route to scoring in six of the eight innings in which they came to bat. The offensive outburst was enough to erase Gausman’s unfortunate start as well as some shaky relief work. Every spot in the Braves’ lineup reached base at least once, while Swanson and Markakis reached base four times each. Markakis collected his first four-hit game since he went 5-for-5 on April 4; Albies homered twice in the same game for the first time since April 28, and for the first time ever with both homers coming from the left side of the plate.

It’s now 11:34 pm EDT, and the Phillies have indeed lost by a final score of 13-8, so there you have it. The Braves won big, the Phillies lost big, and there’s a tie atop the NL East. The Braves-Pirates deja vu continues tomorrow, with Mike Foltynewicz again set to face Chris Archer. Round 2 of Musgrove-Gausman went much better than Round 1 — will the same happen for Round 2 of Archer-Foltynewicz?