Braves’ offense erupts for nine runs in series win over Milwaukee

Braves manager Brian Snitker did not mince words when discussing the Milwaukee Brewers’ rotation and bullpen ahead of the series opener Friday, calling the staff “as good as it gets.”

The Braves’ bats proved up to the challenge this weekend, but they saved their most prolific outing of the series for Sunday’s matinee. The 9-2 rout sealed a series win over the NL Central leaders and showcased an offense with both patience and power.

“It shows what we’re capable of and the team that we are,” Snitker said of the Braves’ past week. “With the split in New York and winning a series off a first-place team, it’s big for us.”

After squaring up against proven commodities in Eric Lauer and 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes in the first two games of the series, the Braves’ lineup looked to find a rhythm against the Brewers’ Sunday starter, 23-year-old Aaron Ashby.

Atlanta’s offense pounced on Ashby from the start. The left-hander stranded two base runners in the first inning but ran into trouble in the second. He opened the inning by giving up two singles and walking two batters, including catcher William Contreras with the bases loaded for the game’s first run.

That walk sent up designated hitter Ronald Acuña, who grounded into a fielder’s choice to score another run. When first baseman Matt Olson’s fly ball found the left-field grass, Acuña sprinted from first to home and avoided a tag when the relay throw from shortstop Willy Adames went well wide of its target.

The Braves added insurance runs off Ashby in the ensuing innings, scoring on center fielder Adam Duvall’s solo home run in the third inning and a bases-loaded wild pitch from Ashby that scored shortstop Dansby Swanson in the bottom of the fourth. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell called upon his bullpen in the fifth inning, but Contreras kept the offense rolling by mashing a three-run homer to boost the lead to 9-0.

“Any time you get a good lead, that’s when you can play aggressive,” Duvall said. “That’s when you can get after it a little bit.”

The final stat line for the Braves: nine hits, five walks, three stolen bases, two homers and nine runs. The bottom of the order delivered. Swanson and right fielder Travis Demeritte combined for three hits, and Contreras had a breakout performance with two walks and a 436-foot home run.

Though Braves starter Charlie Morton struggled at times, hitting Milwaukee left fielder Christian Yelich with a pitch and throwing 62 pitches across the first three innings, he battled through adversity to keep the Brewers off the scoreboard. Morton stranded five Milwaukee runners in the first three innings, including a strikeout and groundout to escape a bases-loaded situation in the top of the second.

After giving up three or more runs in his last four starts, Morton fired five scoreless innings and surrendered only two hits to earn his first win since defeating the Reds in the season-opening series. He also tallied five strikeouts, tying his season best.

“Today I saw some things from the hitters that made me feel like I’m probably not that far off,” Morton said. “Especially early, I felt pretty good about everything early.”

The Braves will resume their homestand Tuesday in an interleague matchup against the Boston Red Sox, who are in last place in the AL East. Right-hander Kyle Wright, owner of a team-best 1.74 ERA, will take the mound for the hosts.