If you like absolutely insane baseball games after hour-long rain delays where the Braves ultimately come up victorious, but not before taking years off your life — well, I’ve got the game for you. The Braves prevailed 6-4, but the late innings were filled with nothing but drama: they fell behind on a two-run bloop single, took the lead on a deluge of bloops of their own, and then nearly threw it all away on what might be the context-adjusted worst defensive play of the year by Johan Camargo. In the end, Jerry Blevins came on with the bases loaded and two outs and struck out Michael Conforto on three pitches to preserve the game and deliver unto Atlanta its 72nd victory of 2019.
While this game ended in rancor, it was very, very quiet in the early and middle innings. Dallas Keuchel got the start opposite Steven Matz, and both southpaws mostly just cruised. Keuchel scattered five hits and two walks over six frames, striking out seven and keeping the Mets entirely off the board. Matz allowed just three baserunners (two hits, one walk) of his own with five strikeouts, but the Braves plated a second-inning run off of him on a single-walk-forceout-double sequence, with Ender Inciarte’s slicer down the left-field line scoring Josh Donaldson.
Keuchel, who has had a miserable experience this year trying to navigate the lineup a third time (8.80 FIP, 5.16 xFIP), had himself a familiar scare in the sixth, but worked out of it. After allowing a leadoff single to J.D. Davis and hitting Pete Alonso, the Braves’ one-run lead appeared imperiled. But, Keuchel got Wilson Ramos to hit into a 1-6-3 double play, and after a walk to Conforto, got Todd Frazier to pop out on a nice over-the-shoulder grab by Freddie Freeman behind the first-base bag. It was a great bounceback start for Keuchel after his absolute shelling in Miami and arguably his best start of the season (that 12-strikeout Royals game deserves mention here as well).
So, onto the seventh, then, where things got wild. Sean Newcomb was the first man out of the Atlanta bullpen despite two righties and the pitcher’s spot due up. He retired said righties, but then Matz, who was already 1-for-2 in the game, notched a broken-bat single to right. Apparently that was Newcomb’s limit in this game, as he gave way to Chris Martin. Martin got a groundball from subsequent batter Amed Rosario that could have ended the inning with the lead intact, but Camargo completely whiffed on flagging it down, and Adam Duvall compounded the defensive woes in left field by throwing to third base instead of second, allowing Rosario to scoot up a base as the go-ahead run. J.D. Davis then blooped a paydirt-finding wounded duck into shallow center at a sub-70 mph exit velocity, and just like that, the Braves were down 2-1. Martin got Alonso to fly out to center to end the frame, but the Braves were now trailing for the first time in the game.
That deficit did not last long. Despite Matz dealing, the Mets replaced him with Seth Lugo, and that decision curdled the Mets’ milk almost immediately. Lugo issued a leadoff walk to Donaldson. Duvall then tomahawked the first pitch he saw, a fastball about eye-high, for a deep single into the left field corner. Camargo stepped in and watched two strikes while attempting to bunt the runners over, but then sent a 1-2 pitch as a bloop of his own into left field, and the sacks were packed with none out. Inciarte, who drove in Atlanta’s first run, then came through to do the same for the second, sending a sinking liner of his own (just barely above 80 mph) into left-center. Tyler Flowers came up and it was New York’s turn to goof on defense. Flowers weakly rolled the first pitch he saw to the right side, but Alonso cut in front of the second baseman while missing the ball, and Lugo failed to cover first. A run scored, and Flowers was safe at first. The Braves then pinch-hit Matt Joyce (note: they did not pinch-hit a lefty for Duvall nor Brian McCann for Flowers earlier in the frame), and Joyce lashed a liner to right that scored Camargo, but went as a forceout in the scorebook because Flowers was thrown out at second. (The ball was trapped on a line by Conforto in right, and Flowers was caught in-between and couldn’t advance in time.) Ronald Acuña Jr. then sent his own bloop into right that made it 5-2 Braves, and against new reliever (and former Brave) Luis Avilan, Ozzie Albies rolled a hard-hit grounder through the left side that allowed Joyce to score from second base. Freddie Freeman, of all people, hit into a double play to end the very, very profitable frame.
On came Shane Greene, and for once, the drama was forestalled, at least for another inning. Greene worked a 1-2-3 frame with a looking strikeout, getting a routine grounder and pop-out as his other two outs. The Braves worked two walks against Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the eighth, but failed to score. And so, the game wound on to the fateful ninth.
Despite the four-run lead, the Braves summoned officially-designated (I guess?) closer Mark Melancon to close out the game. He did not. Melancon did get the first out, a grounder off the bat of Ruben Tejada (making his first major league appearance in exactly two years in this game, baseball is weird), but the things unraveled. Juan Lagares singled up the middle. Pinch-hitter Joe Panik blooped a double down the left-field line (shades of Inciarte’s hit that opened the scoring, but far more weakly hit). Rosario mashed the next pitch from Melancon for a run-scoring single (6-3 Braves), and pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme also singled to left (6-4 Braves).
The tying runs were now on base, and the go-ahead run at the plate, represented by the somewhat terrifying visage of Alonso. For a second, it seemed like things were going to be okay: despite his prodigious pop, Alonso rolled over a Melancon cutter low in the zone and hit it right to the second base bag. It was fortuitous not just in its location but also its speed, a tailor-made double play ball if there ever was one. Albies grabbed it, shoveled it to Camargo at shortstop... and... ugh. Camargo received the ball with his glove but bobbled the transfer as his foot was sliding across the second-base bag. Not only did he drop the ball before being able to throw on to first to end the game... but the Mets challenged his control of the baseball as he tagged second base and overturned the call on the field. The Braves got zero outs when they probably should have gotten two, and had to keep playing a game that could have very well been over.
Melancon, to his credit, did not continue the implosion. Four pitches later, Wilson Ramos was set down as the inning’s second (and game’s penultimate) out, with the first and last swinging strikes coming on knuckle curves in the dirt. And then, the Braves did something you’d probably never guess you’d see in 2019: they pulled the pricy Trade Deadline acquisition from the game, and inserted Jerry Blevins to face Conforto with the game on the line. I already gave away the spoiler above — fastball, foul; curveball, foul; curveball, whiff — and the game was over.
The Braves won a game in which they were outhit 12-8 and out-baserunnered 15-12, in which they made some ghastly defensive miscues, and in which neither team homered. They go for the sweep with Julio Teheran on the hill against Marcus Stroman tomorrow night. Go get some sleep, provided the adrenaline has worn off and you don’t fear that nightmares of the Braves’ recent relief pitching performances will haunt your slumber.