A huge eighth-inning rally for the Braves ended up being the difference in their series-opening game against the Phillies. Five runs for the Braves in the penultimate inning of this contest ended up being enough to give Atlanta a comfortable 9-5 victory over Philadelphia.
Things got off to a good start for the Braves from the jump. While we didn’t get the Ronald Acuña Jr. Leadoff Homer Special, we did get Austin Riley plating Ozzie Albies when the latter took a walk and the former brought him in with a double. While he didn’t go deep with his first at-bat of the night, it didn’t take Acuña long to achieve liftoff in this one. While the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers were playing nearby, Acuña tried his best to interrupt that game by absolutely launching a ball deep into the second deck of Citizens Bank Park. The solo shot made it 2-0 Braves and it seemed like Atlanta was starting to really take control of the game.
Little did we know, that was the start of three innings where the Braves and Phillies would trade one run in each frame. Acuña hit a dinger in the top of the third, but the Phillies responded in the bottom half by manufacturing a run that was driven in via a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Nola. William Contreras smacked one over the fence in right field to get that run back in the fourth inning, only for Bryce Harper to hit a fastball from Drew Smyly that was right down the middle of the plate on a 3-0 count directly into the seats. Freddie Freeman actually got some good BABIP luck in the fifth inning when he drove in Ronald Acuña with a ground ball, and that run was scratched back by the Phillies when Jean Segura drove in Luke Williams with an RBI double.
Luke Williams even being on the basepaths was notable, as the big league debutant got his first career hit on a bunt single. He ended up on third base once the play was done because Drew Smyly made an absolutely horrid defensive play on the bunt — instead of putting the ball in his pocket or even just letting Austin Riley field it and put the ball in his pocket, Smyly attempted to throw the ball to first and the result was calamitous to say the least. The RBI double from Segura ended Smyly’s night, and you could easily argue that this was yet another case of Brian Snitker leaving Smyly in for too long — especially since Smyly hit for himself to lead off the fifth inning.
The good news is that Edgar Santana cleaned up the mess that Smyly left for him in the fifth inning. The bad news is that the Phillies scored in their fourth consecutive inning in the sixth inning. In that frame, J.T. Realmuto welcomed Shane Greene back to the bigs with a game-tying home run and after Greene exited the game with two men on base, Brad Miller picked up a pinch-hit RBI single off of Tyler Matzek to give Philadelphia their first lead of the game. Jean Segura picked up a two-out walk, but Matzek was able to limit the damage to just two runs. However, it was definitely a downer of an inning for the Braves since they found themselves trailing for the first time all night.
A scoreless seventh inning for both teams sure felt like an omen that things were going to finally calm down. Fortunately for the Braves, things got loud and wild for them in the top of the eighth inning. Austin Riley set the tone by absolutely crushing a fastball from Conor Brogdon into the seats a few rows behind the 387 marker in right-center field. The one-out dinger tied things up, but the Braves weren’t done there.
After Dansby Swanson picked up a walk and Abraham Almonte made it on base, Brogdon took a seat and Sam Coonrod entered the game. William Contreras rudely welcomed Coonrod into the game by smacking a single right up the middle to make it 6-4 Atlanta at that point. On the very next at-bat, Coonrod attempted to one-up Drew Smyly when it came to making simultaneously questionable-and-bad defensive plays as a pitcher — he attempted to throw out Contreras at second base, but skied the ball into center field. Almonte scored on the play and soon after that, Ronald Acuña strolled to the plate to face Coonrod.
Earlier this season, Coonrod threw two pitches at Acuña that were both high and inside. The second of those two pitches hit Acuña and took him out of that game and you could definitely make the argument that Coonrod was out for revenge after Acuña took him deep back in April. Well, tonight was the night for Ronald Acuña to get some revenge of his own and it came in the form of a two-out, two-RBI single that put the Braves ahead by four runs. It may not have been another dinger, but I’m certain that the run-scoring hit just had to feel really good for Acuña in that particular moment.
It also felt good for the entire Braves squad, as the five-run explosion in the eighth inning ended up being the major turning point in the game. Will Smith took care of things in the ninth inning and the Braves returned to .500. When they take the field tomorrow, they will once again have a chance to reach the sunny side of .500 for the first time all season. They’ve had a few chances at getting over the .500 hump, so why not make tomorrow the day that it finally happens, right?