Braves win fifth game in past six behind more excellent pitching

Atlanta Braves second base Ozzie Albies, right, and shortstop Orlando Arcia celebrate after defeating Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves second base Ozzie Albies, right, and shortstop Orlando Arcia celebrate after defeating Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

All of the sudden, the Braves have won five of their last six games. And in their latest victory, 24-year-old Spencer Schwellenbach – who has exceeded expectations to this point – added to an impressive start to his major-league career.

The final score Tuesday: 2-1, Braves, for the second night in a row. Atlanta has won the series versus Detroit and will look to sweep on Wednesday at Truist Park.

Five observations:

1. Among the impressive parts of Schwellenbach’s performance in the big leagues thus far, this might stand out most: He appears so in control. The game does not speed up on him. He always seems poised and unfazed.

“It’s pretty rare, in most occasions,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I remember Spencer (Strider) being like that. It’s a good trait to have, I’ll tell you that. I mean, he’s got such a good idea of what he wants to do and he executes his pitches and repeats his delivery, all the little things – can field his position, holds runners really well, all that kind of stuff that winning pitchers do.”

He held the Tigers to a run on three hits over six frames. He struck out seven batters – more than he had in any of his previous starts up here.

So, that poise and composure, where does it come from?

“I just expect a lot from myself, and in order to play well, I feel I have to be calm – because I’ve had a lot of failures in my life in baseball and other sports,” Schwellenbach said. “I always go back to this: When I had Tommy John. I didn’t pitch for 20 months. I had a long time to just sit there and kind of be okay with not playing, but also that urge to get back to playing. And now that I am playing I am taking every day as it is and not getting too far ahead of myself, it helps me with every pitch, one pitch at a time.”

Schwellenbach grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, which is under two hours from Detroit. He didn’t grow up a Tigers fan, but was certainly around them growing up. And on Tuesday, he shut them down.

2. Atlanta’s bullpen threw three scoreless frames to slam the door on the Tigers. The Braves went from Pierce Johnson (seventh inning) to Joe Jiménez (eighth) to Raisel Iglesias (ninth). They did this a night after Jiménez, with Johnson and Iglesias down, earned his first save as a member of the Braves.

This bullpen depth has allowed the Braves to be versatile in how they deploy everyone. On Monday, Atlanta won without a couple top relievers. On Tuesday, the club had its best bullets for the late innings.

“I think I said it in spring training: We got guys for every day here,” Jiménez said. “It doesn’t matter (what) the situation (is). Everybody in the bullpen can do any job. That’s the good thing about here, that you don’t have that pressure that you have to be available every day, and everybody wants to help.”

Jiménez, of course, used to play for Detroit. The Braves acquired him before last season. He faced his old team in Detroit last year, and has thrown two scoreless innings against them this week.

Facing them isn’t normal quite yet.

“It’s still a little weird,” he said. “Obviously, you spend a lot of time with those guys, and they became family, basically. It’s a little weird still.”

3. The Braves scored twice in the first inning – once on Ozzie Albies’ triple, then again on Marcell Ozuna’s single. They didn’t plate another run, but Schwellenbach and the bullpen made the lead stand up.

Since losing a series to Baltimore on June 12, the Braves have lost only once. Snitker has maintained that if his club handled the storm, something good would be on the other end.

Is this stretch the result of the team continuing to be the same even when it struggled?

“Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely,” Jiménez said. “I think that was the key for us, and still the key – just be the same and come here and try to work and do your routine as you do when you’re doing good or bad. I think he was right. He was just like, ‘Keep pushing’ and I think everything is turning out right now.”

4. In the second inning, Albies put together one of the at-bats that keeps you in love with this sport.

It lasted 13 pitches. Albies fouled off seven (!!!) pitches in a row.

He flied out to center field, but it was a magnificent effort by Albies and Detroit starter Casey Mize – the type of plate appearance that becomes another example of Albies being locked in at the plate right now.

“I mean, just put it in play or walk him, I guess,” Schwellenbach said of what would be going through his mind if he were battling Albies like that. “I couldn’t see Ozzie, but I could hear the bat every single time. A couple of them were coming toward our dugout and I see the guys go flailing and I’m like, ‘Where’s the ball? Where’s the ball?’ I mean, his ability to just put the bat on the ball, and as a pitcher, that is so stressful. Thirteen pitches, that’ll raise your pitches. It’s never fun.”

Added Snitker: “I probably liked it a lot more than the kid pitching against him. That was a heck of an at-bat. And to (Mize’s) credit too, he kept coming right after him, too. Both of them, that was old-fashioned hardball right there.”

5. When asked about catcher Travis d’Arnaud’s guidance, Schwellenbach had a thoughtful and insightful response that provided a look at why d’Arnaud is so valuable.

“So, the biggest thing with him is he’ll call a pitch and if you shake it or you throw the pitch, in the dugout after, he’ll tell you why he did that,” Schwellenbach said. “And sometimes, when you’re in the moment and you’re like, ‘No, I don’t want that pitch’ and you throw something else, he’ll tell you why you threw the pitch. And being a 24-year-old pitcher and (making my) fourth start, having that available to you in the dugout, you don’t have that in the minor leagues, you don’t have that in college. So, it’s really helpful.”

Stat to know

1 - Since the start of interleague play in 1997, Schwellenbach is the first Braves pitcher to make three starts against American League opponents within his first four career appearances. This is something that wouldn’t be possible without the balanced schedule that debuted last season.


“It’s really easy to come in here and feel comfortable, you walk in and everyone shakes your hand with a smile on their face and I feel comfortable to ask questions whenever I need to. The guys have definitely taken me under their wing and just allows me to talk to them without walking on eggshells.” - Schwellenbach on the Braves’ welcoming environment

Up next

A terrific pitching matchup is on deck: The Braves’ Reynaldo López, owner of a 1.69 ERA, will face Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal and his 2.20 ERA on Wednesday. The game begins at 12:20 p.m.