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Braves Flashback/Recap: June 9

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Did you remember that Rio Ruiz once had a walkoff hit for the Braves?

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Patrick Duffy/Beam Imagination/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

Part of the “fun” (such as it is) in fielding a bad/rebuilding team is watching players that likely wouldn’t get a shot otherwise seize on their opportunities and live their dreams. The rebuilding Braves didn’t have too much of that, whether due to some really inconsistent (and poor) performance from many of their youngsters or due to clogging the team with ineffective veterans, but it still happened here and there. This was one of those games — a walkoff courtesy of Rio Ruiz, who was shown the door from the organization around a year (and fewer than 150 major league PAs) later.

The gist: Both Matt Harvey and Julio Teheran labored through most of the game, with the Braves forcing the former to work but not able to scratch anything off of him, as he made a Curtis Granderson solo homer stand up. As soon as he exited, though, Dansby Swanson tagged the Mets’ bullpen for a go-ahead two-run double... right before another solo homer, this time by Travis d’Arnaud, tied the game. In the bottom of the ninth, Swanson again hit a double, and then scored the winning run on Rio Ruiz’ pinch-hit single.

Box scores: Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs

The set-up: The 2017 Mets and Braves were part of a meaningless clump in the NL East — coming into this game, they had split their first eight games of the season, and were part of a cluster of three teams (them and the Marlins) separated by half a game in the NL East. All of these teams were under .500 (26-32 Braves, 25-32 Mets), and all were 11+ games behind the Nationals in the division.

The starters, too, weren’t exactly lighting it up. Julio Teheran had a good, bounceback 2016, but was once again scuffling to begin the 2017 season. He had allowed just two runs in 12 innings so far against the Mets, but otherwise had a 123/135/128 pitching minus stats slash line (ERA-/FIP-/xFIP-). Teheran was once again having homer problems, having allowed nine of them over his last four starts; he’d been crushed for seven runs in five innings, including two homers, his last time out in Cincinnati. Matt Harvey, meanwhile, was spiraling into irrelevance after a mostly-good-but-injured 2016 that ended with thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. A dip of 1 mph in velocity was causing all sorts of problems even aside from the drama that Harvey was out late partying before games — he came into this start with one good and one bad start against the Braves, but a brutal 133/141/121 line overall.

How it happened: Despite their struggles, both pitchers had few issues early. Teheran’s first two frames were perfect; Harvey allowed just a two-out single to the Freddie Freeman-less Braves in the bottom of the first. In the bottom of the second, the Braves put together a very long and ultimately fruitless rally. Matt Adams drew a walk to start the inning, and moved to second on Danny Santana’s single up the middle. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, but Harvey walked Swanson to load the bases to bring up Teheran. The Atlanta hurler hit a weak bouncer to third, and Matt Adams ended up being forced out at the plate on a potentially-questionable call. Ender Inciarte followed with a fairly deep yet routine liner to center, giving the Braves a 27-pitch, two walk, one hit frame that somehow yielded zero runs.

So, of course, right after that, the Mets showed the Braves how to play modern baseball, courtesy of Curtis Granderson, who caught Inciarte’s liner to end the prior inning:

(Believe it or not, Granderson never actually hit Teheran that well despite being a lefty, and this was the last of his three career homers off of him. Still, that was a pretty meaty 2-0 fastball at 91 mph.)

Harvey collected a single to extend the inning, but then got doubled up on whatever happened on this really weird play:

After that, the innings were mostly scoreless, but not exactly short. Harvey’s third featured 19 pitches but just a two-out single. Teheran’s fourth included a one-out double by Jay Bruce and a two-out walk to Lucas Duda, but no further scoring. Santana had a bunt single in the bottom of the fourth as Harvey’s toss ended up hitting him as he ran down the line, but was the only baserunner in another very long (20 pitches) but relatively effective Harvey frame. Teheran walked Granderson to lead off the fifth, but then got three outs in the air, with two of them making it to the warning track. Harvey had his first and only perfect inning in the fifth, but again, it took him 19 pitches to do so. He was done after five innings, having thrown 104 pitches despite allowing just six baserunners (3/2 K/BB ratio). Still, it was his first (and only, in the end) scoreless outing of 2017, and arguably his best to date — certainly his best since his first three starts of the season.

Teheran wrapped up his Friday night with a scoreless sixth that featured a one-out Bruce single, and then a 10-pitch walk to Wilmer Flores, but nothing else. T.J. Rivera hit a hard liner right at Matt Kemp in left to end the inning, making the solo homer the only damage against Teheran to go with a 3/3 K/BB ratio.

With Harvey gone, the Mets turned to Paul Sewald, a rookie who’d been pretty effective in middle/long relief for them so far (though he had allowed five runs while getting just one out a week ago). Getting Harvey and his long innings out of there was apparently what the Braves needed. Kemp started the inning by ripping a liner down the left-field line on Sewald’s third pitch for a leadoff double. (Harvey only had three PAs all game that ended after three or fewer pitches.) After Sewald recovered to get a couple of outs (Adams strikeout, Kurt Suzuki popout), the Mets chose to intentionally walk Danny Santana (???) to pitch to Dansby Swanson. The latter only had a 56 wRC+ coming into this game, so you could kind of see what they were going for... but Swanson made them pay:

That pitch came on Sewald’s third groovy fastball of the PA — Swanson had somehow failed to time the first two, but crushed this one, and the Braves had a lead for the first time. Johan Camargo pinch-hit for Teheran, but bounced back to Sewald to end the inning.

The lead was very short-lived. Eric O’Flaherty came on to face Granderson and Granderson alone and did his job via strikeout. That summoned Jason Motte from the bullpen to face the righty-batting Travis d’Arnaud, and he did not do his job at all:

Motte stayed in to get another out, and then Ian Krol came on for the lefty-batting Michael Conforto and struck him out as well.

Jerry Blevins replaced Sewald in the bottom of the seventh and needed just seven pitches to get through the order. He faced two lefties and was bailed out by Brandon Phillips grounding out in a 3-1 count for the second out. Krol stayed in to get a couple more outs against a switch-hitter and a lefty in the eighth, and then gave way to Jose Ramirez, who retired the lefty-mashing Flores. Or, rather, this slick Dansby Swanson play retired Flores:

Fernando Salas was given the job of keeping the game tied in the bottom of the eighth. Kemp led off with an infield single (yes, he actually beat out a throw from short), but then the Braves made a pretty big blunder by sending him on a 3-2 count, which turned into a strikeout/caught stealing double play in predictable fashion:

A groundout ended the inning.

For the ninth, it was again Jim Johnson time. No real drama in this game from Johnson, however — after two outs, he walked Granderson on five pitches, but then got d’Arnaud to pop out to his catching counterpart.

Salas stayed in for the bottom of the ninth, as the Braves entered walkoff territory. Three pitches in, Santana popped out. Two pitches later, Swanson was in an 0-2 count. But, he came through again — this time with straight-up hustle. Salas’ third pitch to Swanson was over the plate, and he hit it into center, a routine groundball single. However, he motored through first and his turn, and decided to try to stretch this very, very routine single into a double. It worked! Granderson played it like a routine single, and his throw was far too late to nab Swanson.

With the pitcher’s spot due up, the Braves announced Rio Ruiz into the game. He had been called up to be the Braves’ third-base starter in mid-May after Adonis Garcia was injured, but hit poorly enough to start losing playing time to Danny Santana (and soon thereafter, Johan Camargo). The Mets made a corresponding move of their own, taking out the righty-throwing Salas for the lefty-throwing Josh Edgin. As it turns out, Edgin ended up throwing just one pitch in this game:

Game MVP: Who else, but Dansby Swanson? He wasn’t having and didn’t have a good season, but he drove in two, and basically won the game with his hustle double and sprint home. Plus, there was some good defense thrown in as well. He even had his own single-game highlight reel:

Swanson finished 2017 with -0.2 fWAR and a 64 wRC+ to go with below-average shortstop defense, but this was still a fun game for him. His .445 WPA was his highest single-game mark to date; he’d top it only once thereafter (so far), in the May 20, 2018 walkoff against the Marlins we covered earlier.

Game LVP: Josh Edgin, mostly because there isn’t anyone else to give it to. Edgin hasn’t appeared in a game since 2017, and has 0.1 career fWAR in 127 career relief innings. He just didn’t LOOGY as effectively as he could have in this one.

Biggest play: Swanson’s go-ahead two-run double in the sixth.

The game, in context of the season: Neither of these teams went anywhere, as you well know. The 72-win Braves finished two games ahead of the Mets, in third place. The Mets actually won the next three games of this series, though, including a doubleheader sweep, and went on to take 12 of 19 from the Braves over the course of the year. Still, they were mediocre to dreadful all the season, while the Braves at least had a nice (16-12) June in which they only lost two series, including this one.

For Julio Teheran, 2017 was a concerning season — he finished with a career-low 1.0 fWAR and couldn’t even get his RA9-WAR to average territory (1.7). He’d fall even further in 2018 before somewhat of a rebound in 2019. Harvey’s collapse was even more dramatic — he finished 2017 with -0.9 fWAR and missed much of the year with a stress fracture in his shoulder. The Mets parted way with their onetime ace early in 2018, where he pitched decently with the Reds for the rest of the year before completely falling apart in 2019 as an Angel.

Rio Ruiz finished 2017 with -0.1 fWAR and just a 54 wRC+. He was traded to Baltimore partway through 2018 in the trade that netted Kevin Gausman. In 2019, he finally got a heaping of playing time with the Orioles in 2019, but only managed 0.4 fWAR in over 400 PAs. The pinch-hit game winner was his biggest hit to date, WPA-wise (.436), though he’d top it in 2019 with a once-in-a-lifetime, come-from-behind, game-winning two-run homer against Roberto Osuna of the Astros.


Condensed Game:


Highlight Reel page: click here

TC Recap:

TC Game Thread:

Also that time I praised Brian Snitker’s bullpen management:

TC Commentariat Zeitgeist: Appreciation of an effective Julio Teheran start, and puns on “Rio.”

Anything else? Really random trivia: Ruiz was the first Brave to walk it off on the first pitch of a PA since Brian Hunter in 2000, who did it with a homer.

Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about June 9: The launch of the USS George Washington, the first worldwide nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, in 1959. Actually the third U.S. Navy ship bearing George Washington’s namesake, it was the first ship to be purposefully a warship.