Rusin, 33, spent the last five years with the Rockies. He’s logged just 55-2/3 innings across the past two seasons, making only two appearances in 2019, but the Braves have liked him since spring training. He’s the fourth lefty in the bullpen, joining Tyler Matzek, Grant Dayton and A.J. Minter.
Notes from Saturday:
- Second baseman Ozzie Albies returned to the starting lineup Saturday after mostly resting Friday due to right-wrist soreness. He pinch-hit in the eighth inning and handled second base in the ninth, when a dive briefly knocked the wind out of him. It didn’t affect his wrist.
“It scared me,” Snitker said. “Any time someone dives like that, you worry about them landing on their wrist. But it knocked the wind out of him.”
- The Braves pulled another win out of their hat Friday, using a five-run eighth to defeat the Mets after trailing by six in the fifth. It’s nothing new for the Braves under Snitker: Friday marked the 79th time the Braves won a game in their final at-bat since Snitker took over in May 2016, most in the majors over that span.
Under Snitker, the Braves led the National League in final at-bats wins in 2016 (19) and 2017 (20). They tied for the lead in 2018 (20) and were fifth last season with the same number. Friday’s comeback was their largest since erasing a 7-0 deficit in Cleveland last April.
“I call it the ‘it’ factor,” Snitker said. “Some teams have it, some teams don’t. This club has it.”
- Despite taking advantage of the Mets bullpen’s ineptitude, Friday’s comeback didn’t ease pitching concerns. Starter Sean Newcomb and Chacin surrendered 10 runs in the first six innings to put the Braves into a hole from which they usually won’t recover.
Beyond Mike Soroka and Max Fried, the Braves’ rotation has fallen apart. They need immediate growth from the combination of Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright. Otherwise, even with the talent oozing from other areas of the roster, they’re risking plodding through the next 52 games.
“He’s going to need to throw more strikes,” Snitker said of Newcomb. “That needs to be his approach. He needs to go out like it’s the ninth inning and he’s closing the game and just leave it out there for that inning. If he does, then he’ll go back out and do it again the next inning. We’ll see. Hopefully he can right himself and get it going. He’s a big, strong kid who doesn’t labor throwing the ball. You can ride him a while if he’s got it going.”
- Wright will start Sunday against the Mets. The Rays tagged him for five runs over 2-2/3 innings in his first start, but Wright, a former top-five pick, is a highly regarded prospect for a reason. The Braves believe in his future, but there’s an increased urgency this season. They can’t afford the patience they could in a normal year.
That said, they’re forced to have a longer leash on starters right now. They’re low on alternatives, meaning their best hope is Wright and other unestablished players developing quickly. Wright at least had some positives from which to build.
Before unwinding in the third, Wright started well in his last outing. He allowed only an infield single across the first two innings. He unraveled in the third, walking the bases loaded and allowed three consecutive two-out hits to finish his short start.
“I have to build off those first two innings,” he said Saturday. “I felt like I did a good job preparing for that start. I just want to take those two innings and put them to a whole game. A lot of things got out of whack. I have to continue to pound the zone. We have a great defense behind us. ... For me, the main thing is stay in the strike zone, make them swing it and let the defense make a play.”