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Braves prevail in battle of crazy eighths, take series with 7-4 win

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The Braves beat Matthew Boyd, but it momentarily was not enough.

Detroit Tigers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

The Braves beat Matthew Boyd, but they could not defeat their own heart of darkness. I’m talking about their bullpen, of course, which blew a three-run lead by allowing two homers in the same inning. But, not to worry — a four-run bottom half of the eighth against Detroit’s own relief corps sealed the win for Atlanta, delivering a series victory and a perfect 2-0 record so far in June.

Coming into this game, it was a fair bit that Matthew Boyd was going to limit walks and strike out a lot of Braves. It was also a real possibility that if the Braves did any damage against arguably the pitcher in the American League, it would come via homer from a right-handed hitter. For once, baseball played out more or less as expected: Boyd struck out nine Braves in five frames and issued zero walks, but got tagged for a two-run homer by Dansby Swanson in the bottom of the third to yield a 2-0 lead to Atlanta. The homer scored Julio Teheran, who had notched a groundball double off Boyd earlier in the frame. Swanson again connected off Boyd in the fifth to score a third run, doubling home pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, who had defied platoon disadvantage to produce a double of his own against Boyd earlier in the frame.

Meanwhile, whether Julio Teheran could keep up his strand rate magic that he’s conjured up over his last few starts was probably a matter of more debate, but yes, indeed he did. Teheran pitched five scoreless frames, but they weren’t without drama.

  • In the first, back-to-back singles put runners on the corners with one out, but Brandon Dixon popped out on a first-pitch hanging slider from Teheran, and a groundout to third ended the inning.
  • In the third, Teheran worked around a leadoff single by Boyd, retiring the top of Detroit’s order on three balls in play.
  • In the fourth, an errant two-out walk to former Brave Gordon Beckham and a balk put a Tiger in scoring position, but Teheran struck out Grayson Greiner to end the frame.

The fifth, however, was where things got the diciest for Teheran. A leadoff double by JaCoby Jones brought the tying run to the plate. Teheran struck out Boyd, but then turned an 0-2 count advantage on Niko Goodrum into a walk. A slow roller groundout put the tying run in scoring position as the runners advanced, and then Teheran turned another 0-2 count into a walk, this time to Nick Castellanos. It seemed for a bit that a similar fate might occur with Teheran and Brandon Dixon, now batting with the sacks packed, but Dixon waved at a slider off the plate in a 1-2 count and mercifully, the inning was over. Teheran danced into, and out of, trouble once again. That was it for his day, which he finished with six strikeouts and three walks along with four hits yielded, but zero runs. The Houdini act is alive and well in Atlanta, I guess.

Teheran departed after his adventurous fifth, and Boyd was pulled as well. The sixth and seventh saw relievers duel to throw goose eggs on the board. Anthony Swarzak issued a two-out walk but otherwise kept the Tigers at bay. The Braves, meanwhile, went down in order to Nick Ramirez in the sixth. Sean Newcomb came on for the top of the seventh and issued two one-out singles to bring the tying run to the plate, which prompted his departure and the entry of Dan Winkler. Winkler only threw two pitches: the first, a four-seamer that badly missed its target; the second, a get-me-over fastball that Castellanos hit on a line... but right towards Dansby Swanson, who fielded it on a hop and started an easy inning-ending double play. The Braves once again came up with nothing against Ramirez in the bottom of the inning.

And then, the eight struck, and it was wild. Jacob Webb came on in relief of Dan Winkler, and his first batter reached on a booted ball by Dansby Swanson. Webb then elicited a pop-out, but the Braves infield let him down again, as another grounder to Josh Donaldson popped out of Ozzie Albies’ hands on the transfer, turning a potential inning-ending double play into a force out. The very next pitch, a grooved Webb fastball, was deposited into the left-field stands by Greiner, and it was now 3-2 Braves. The ball only had a 49 percent hit probability and just snuck past the outfield wall, but runs aren’t scored on partial wins probability, as the old adage goes. Webb got ahead of the next batter, JaCoby Jones, 0-2, but then hung a curveball that Jones didn’t miss, crushing it for a less dubious home run that tied the game. That was it for Webb, and out came Touki Toussaint to gather a groundout and send a now-tie game into the bottom of the eighth.

It didn’t stay tied for long. Facing new reliever Joe (not Jose) Jimenez, Dansby Swanson came up big again, drawing a one-out walk. Freddie Freeman then hooked a 1-0 pitch into the right-field corner, scoring a hustling Swanson. Josh Donaldson then drew a four-pitch walk of his own, bringing up Austin Riley. Fortune smiled on the Braves at that point: Riley hit a comebacker to Jimenez, who made a terrible throw nowhere near second base. Freeman scored, Donaldson went to third, and it was 5-3 Braves. From there, the Tigers went to a new reliever, Blaine Hardy, but he didn’t fare much better. Albies connected for a sacrifice fly that was flagged down on a nice running catch by Jones in center, and then pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson lifted a ball that eluded Jones, going for an RBI triple. The Braves now had a 7-3 lead, and turned it over to Luke Jackson for the ninth.

Jackson’s ninth was relatively quiet by comparison. He gave up a one-out homer to Christin Stewart, but retired the next two hitters on six pitches, including a strikeout on a pitch that bounced well away from catcher Tyler Flowers and had to be collected and thrown to first to end the game, but that was that.

The Braves improve to 32-27 on the year. They have a chance to climb back to within one game of the division lead, provided the Dodgers are able to defeat the Phillies once again in Los Angeles. Dansby Swanson went 2-for-3 with a walk, his 12th homer, and his eighth double of the year; Swanson was the only Brave to reach base multiple times. The Braves won despite giving the Detroit pitching staff a 13/2 K/BB ratio on the day. Nick Markakis appeared in this game as a pinch-hitter, keeping alive his game appearance streak, which leads all active players. The Braves, like all but eight MLB teams, are off tomorrow. They begin a series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, with Max Fried set to oppose southpaw Steven Brault.