This should be the first of many for AJ Smith-Shawver.

The 20-year-old Braves rookie earned his first career MLB win in Thursday’s 8-3 victory over the Rockies at Truist Park.

Five observations:

1. After the game, the Braves celebrated Smith-Shawver’s first win.

“Just a little something-something,” he said.

Over 5 2/3 innings, Smith-Shawver allowed three runs on six hits. Among all of that: Two solo home runs.

He was more aggressive this time around.

“I didn’t think I had my best stuff in my first start, so I just tried to build off that start, take away some things, just execute pitches better,” Smith-Shawver said. “And just don’t let the game speed up, and kind of stay calm out there and just execute.”

The righty pitched a scoreless first, which meant he held a 0.00 ERA through his first 8 2/3 big-league innings. In the second inning, Elias Díaz took Smith-Shawver deep for his first earned run as a major leaguer.

Smith-Shawver’s velocity improved from his last start. He hit 97 mph a few times (if rounding up the decimal points) and threw eight pitches over 96 mph.

“I thought he kind of stepped on the gas a little bit more than he did (in his last start),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He was a little careful, I thought, the last time. And you’re probably gonna see that continue as he gets confidence and experience. I think there’s even more in there.”

2. This is the Braves offense we expected to see.

Since the series-opening loss in Arizona on June 2, the Braves have scored 79 runs. That’s an average of between six and seven runs per game over this stretch.

The Braves have arguably been baseball’s top offense in June.

Entering Friday, Atlanta led the majors with an .867 OPS this month. The Braves also ranked first in batting average (.300), slugging percentage (.507), home runs (22) and runs per game (6.08).

And pitching, when you have this lineup to support you?

“It’s pretty easy,” Smith-Shawver said. “You know that you just gotta keep them in the game, throw strikes, pound the zone, because if you do those things, the (opponents) are gonna get themselves out most of the time. Every once in a while, they’ll hit one. You can’t make too many mistakes or they’re gonna make you pay. They’re big-league hitters still. But end of the day, just executing. You know that your guys are gonna put up some runs because we got some really good bats in the lineup.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

3. On Friday, Snitker made a change in his lineup: He removed Matt Olson from the second spot in the order and moved him down to fifth. Snitker instead put Ozzie Albies in the two-hole versus the left-handed Kyle Freeland.

It worked.

Albies went 3-for-4, including a bases-clearing double in the second inning. He has 47 RBIs. Injuries derailed his 2022 season. He’s provided quite the boost this year.

“It’s always good to have Ozzie back,” Snitker said. “Just what he brings, how he plays, defensively what he can do. … We’re a better team when Ozzie’s out there, that’s for sure.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Olson pulverized a 456-foot home run.

Snitker said he might use a similar lineup construction on Friday.

4. The Braves had four relievers down on Thursday because of Wednesday’s doubleheader.

What that meant: Smith-Shawver and Michael Tonkin needed to combine to pitch most, if not all, of this game.

And what do you know?

It happened.

“That’s about as good as it can get right there,” Snitker said.

The Braves had Kirby Yates ready for the ninth if necessary. They didn’t need him.

Tonkin pitched the final 3 1/3 innings. It ended with his first career save, which came a decade after his MLB debut.

“It’s pretty special,” Tonkin said. “I’ve been doing this awhile, obviously. It’s awesome.”

He got the ball from his special moment.

5. When Smith-Shawver returned to the dugout after completing his fifth inning, he didn’t receive any handshakes. No one came up to him to tell him good job.

“All right, let’s do it,” he thought. “Let’s try to get another one out there.”

He earned two outs in the sixth before the crowd gave him another standing ovation.

The best moment of his start might have come in the top of the fifth, when Colorado scored its third and final run. Smith-Shawver could’ve crumbled, but with runners on the corners, he ended the inning with a strikeout.

“I think it’s just trusting what you do day in, day out,” Smith-Shawver said of remaining poised in those situations. “I throw a lot of baseballs, so I just try to trust in my stuff and trust all the work that we’ve put in.”

Stat to know

1990 - Smith-Shawver is the youngest Braves pitcher to record a win since Steve Avery in 1990.


“It’s the dream to be on a team that’s good and help them. It’s a dream.” - Tonkin on contributing a lot to a contending team

Up next

Braves left-hander Jared Shuster will make the start opposite Rockies right-hander Dinelson Lamet Friday. The game begins at 7:20 p.m.

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