I don’t really know how to sugarcoat this, so I’ll just say it: the 2021 Atlanta Braves were defeated on Friday night (or Saturday morning) in 11 innings by a sacrifice fly off the bat of former compadre Kevin Gausman. Yes, Kevin Gausman, who was batting because the Giants were out of position players. They came back in the top of the ninth thanks to a three-run homer from Travis d’Arnaud, had to play under the stupid extra-inning rules still in effect for some reason because Will Smith gave up a two-out, two-strike homer to Donovan Solano, survived a potential game-ending situation in the tenth, just to lose because of the combination of Kevin Gausman and Jacob Webb airmailing a pickoff throw to second base. Yeah, I don’t know. There’s a good team somewhere in this roster, but it’s very good at hiding behind substantial dunes of really dumb stuff.
Now that you know the gist, I guess we can talk about the game as it happened. The Braves actually jumped out to a quick two-run lead against Logan Webb, as a two-out rally paid dividends. Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley both singled, and Adam Duvall hit a weak flare that landed fair in right field and bounced to the wall, scoring them both. The problem was that Ian Anderson immediately gave those runs back, issuing a leadoff walk and then yielding a no-doubter homer to Brandon Belt. Anderson had a bizarre outing, fitting for this bizarre game, in which he went from dominant to erratically horrible, often within the span of a single inning. It’s not clear exactly what’s plaguing him, but even after a decent outing against the Marlins, he’s not back to where he was.
Things only got worse for Anderson and the Braves in the bottom of the second, as Brandon Crawford teed off on a high fastball and smacked it to left for an opposite-field solo shot. In the fourth, it was LaMonte Wade’s turn to add to his dinger tally, as he led off that frame by depositing a 2-0 hanging changeup for a solo shot. After that, the game was pretty quiet for a while. A two-out walk followed by a double chased Anderson, but A.J. Minter struck out Crawford to keep the deficit at two. Anderson finished with seven strikeouts to just two walks, but allowed four runs on three longballs in 5 2⁄3 innings. Webb finished strong by hurling six scoreless frames after his two-run first, eviscerating the Braves overall with nine strikeouts and zero walks. Chris Martin and Sean Newcomb threw scoreless frames in relief, while the Braves were set down 1-2-3 by Dominic Leone in the eighth.
That set up the ninth, with sidewinding Tyler Rogers... and something amazing happened. Riley started the inning with a hard-hit single. Duvall followed with one of his own. Eddie Rosario also lined it hard, but right to an infielder, for the first out. Up next was Travis d’Arnaud, and somehow, after giving up four homers and trailing most of the game... the Braves led?
The Braves didn’t get anything else off Rogers, but all they needed to do was get three outs to not lose a game in the standings to the Phillies. They did not. Will Smith came on for his first appearance in his old stomping ground. It didn’t go well. Or, well, it did, until it didn’t. First, Smith got a pop-out. Then he struck out Wilmer Flores on a check swing called at the plate. He got ahead, 0-2, on Donovan Solano, who was just activated from the Injured List. Then, he threw a fifth straight slider, the only one of the sequence that was anywhere near the zone... and it got smashed into the left-field corner for a game-tying solo homer. Look, I appreciate Will Smith’s single-minded dedication to make sure every Braves fan understands how foolhardy spending real assets on relievers is, but dude, cut it out. Seriously. Smith also nearly ended the game by allowing a walkoff homer to Curt Casali, but it looped foul and he struck him out.
So, if that wasn’t insane enough for you, now the Braves and Giants had to deal with the ridiculous sideshow we currently call “extra innings.” The Braves didn’t score in the top of the 10th against Tony Watson, even though Freddie Freeman barreled a ball with two outs that was caught on the warning track in left center. Tyler Matzek then gave them another chance to win it by throwing a scoreless, high-drama 10th: Matzek struck out Belt, intentionally walked Buster Posey, got a forceout at second, intentionally walked Kris Bryant, ran the count full to Crawford, and then finally got him to hit a hard grounder to short for the third out.
In the 11th, the Braves failed to score against Camilo Doval despite hitting two more balls with decent chances to plate a run: Riley hit one hard (100 mph, .570 hit probability) but right to the third baseman, and Rosario ended the inning on a .360 hit probability grounder of his own. Which took us to the bonkers bottom half of the 11th.
It started (and ended) with Jacob Webb, who’s had a pretty unfortunate run in extra innings this season. This, too, was unfortunate, as Webb started the frame by trying to pick off the gift runner at second base and failing miserably, allowing the winning run to move to third. That led to an intentional walk, followed by a shallow fly that didn’t prompt an advance, and then another intentional walk to bring up the pitcher’s spot. Out of position players, the Giants had Kevin Gausman bat for Doval. Webb got ahead of Gausman 1-2, but then missed with a fastball, and then missed with a changeup. I was shocked that Gausman actually swung at the 3-2 pitch, but he hit it 256 feet to right, and Crawford was able to tag up and score ahead of Joc Pederson’s throw home.
That was a baseball game. It was fun for a little bit. I hope you enjoyed staying up to watch 2021 Atlanta Braves baseball. There’ll be more of it tomorrow, as the Braves try to protect what is now a two-game lead in the division.