After falling behind in the top of the ninth inning, Dansby Swanson finished off a furious rally and comeback for the Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the ninth inning. The home team broke their four-game losing streak as they scratched and clawed their way to a 7-6 walk-off win over the Miami Marlins.
For the first four innings of this game, it was sure looking like we were about to get yet another long game of frustration for the Braves. Atlanta’s lineup looked befuddled by Trevor Rogers at times and the Marlins were hitting early and often with both soft and hard contact. After a scoreless first inning, Ian Anderson found himself in trouble after striking out Brian Anderson to start the frame. The next three at-bats went double, double, and single and the Marlins were ahead 2-0 by the end of the frame. The second double that put the Marlins on the board was a 86.1 miles-per-hour blooper with an expected Batting Average of .080. It ended up going for a double because that’s basically been the Braves’ run of luck here in the early goings of the season.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Braves pitching once again ran into two-out trouble. This time, Ian Anderson had a situation where Chad Wallach was on second with two outs after a Jon Berti strikeout and a sacrifice bunt from Rogers. Corey Dickerson ambushed him on the very first pitch of that at-bat and Wallach came home to score. It was 3-0 at that point, the Braves didn’t get their first hit until the bottom half of that inning and the mood was certainly dour at the ballpark in Cobb County.
Fortunately, the fifth inning was when we all got our reminder that Ronald Acuña Jr. plays for this team and he is currently playing some unbelievable baseball at the moment. All he needs is a little bit of help, and Ehire Adrianza provided it with a pinch-hit single to lead off the fifth. Acuña then came up to the plate and was thrown a 94 miles-per-hour fastball from Trevor Rogers that was off the plate and out of the zone. All of those factors didn’t matter, as Acuña somehow put a charge into it anyways and lifted it over the fence in left field for a two-run dinger that brought the Braves back to life. He is on an incredible run right now and this was one of the more-freakish moments that you’ll see from him while he’s on this tear.
What was even better is that Ronald Acuña wasn’t the only one to bring the power stroke to the ballpark today for Atlanta. In the very next inning, the Braves found themselves with two men on and two outs when the pitcher’s spot in the lineup came up again. This time, it was Pablo Sandoval’s turn to do some pinch-hitting. At that point, he had already endeared himself to the Braves’ fanbase by already hitting a couple of big pinch-hit homers. After today, he’s officially on track to become a cult hero after he smacked his third pinch-hit homer of the season. The power stroke from the Panda gave the Braves the lead and for the first time in a few days, optimism was reigning supreme for the Braves and the fans in attendance.
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 15, 2021
Braves take the lead! pic.twitter.com/IArHY3Z7Q0
The optimism levels immediately took a hit in the top of the seventh, as Nate Jones’ second pitch to Starling Marte ended up going soaring over the left field fence for a solo shot that cut Atlanta’s lead to only one run. Fortunately, Jones got it together and clamped down for the rest of the inning and preserved the lead. Tyler Matzek followed that up with a really good outing in the eighth inning, which set the stage for A.J. Minter to close things out heading into the ninth inning.
Unfortunately, Minter did anything but close out the game right there. Instead, his struggles from earlier in the week carried over to this game and he walked the first batter he saw — extending that streak to four straight walks. The streak was broken when Adam Duvall came off of the bench and finished off his week of torment with a game-tying double. Minter retired the next two batters in order and it seemed like he was going to pull a Nate Jones from earlier and mitigate the damage to just one run. Instead, he pulled a “Braves Pitching Staff In General” and gave up a run with two outs on the board. Fittingly, it was Garrett Cooper who smacked the go-ahead single for the Marlins and once again, it looked like the Braves were heading towards their doom.
The Braves went into the bottom of the ninth inning with Ender Inciarte as their leadoff hitter. Dylan Floro ran up an 0-2 count on Inciarte and I’m certain that the majority of the fanbase was gearing up for either a strikeout or a soft roller to second base. Instead, Ender roped one into left for a leadoff single and the fateful rally began. Ronald Acuña Jr. continued his terrifying rampage with a single, then Freddie Freeman put up an MVP-caliber at-bat by coaxing a walk out of Floro following ten pitches.
After Travis d’Arnaud (who didn’t start) struck out, the bases were still loaded for Ozzie Albies and he showed strong patience to take a game-tying walk. The Braves had new life at that point, and Dansby Swanson wasted no time in declaring the Braves alive and well as he hit the first pitch he saw from Floro into left field to give the Braves their first walk-off of the season and a desperately-needed win.
While there are still tons of games left to be played, the Braves haven’t gotten off to the type of start that they were expecting. With that being said, this is one of those games that could easily be seen as the catalyst for a change in fortunes. The Braves came back twice in this one, including turning a ninth-inning deficit into a walk-off victory. While the Braves still have plenty of work to do in order to turn things around and really get rolling, they can do so knowing that they’ve got the wind in their sails following a much-needed clutch performance and victory. Hopefully this is the game that we all look back on later this season as the day when things started rocking-and-rolling for the Atlanta Braves.