If a team is going to eliminate the Braves, it’ll have to win at Truist Park during the series. The Braves are 51-27 at the ballpark, MLB’s third-best home record. Earlier Thursday, the Orioles (100-59) secured the AL’s No. 1 seed.
2. Less than 20 minutes into the game, the Braves had already set a couple more records. First baseman Matt Olson smashed a two-run homer off Marcus Stroman that just stayed fair at the right-field pole. His 136 RBIs set a modern franchise record, passing Eddie Mathews’ 135 RBIs in 1953 (RBIs weren’t an official stat until 1920).
Olson has 19 more RBIs than the second-highest total (Pete Alonso with 117). He’ll join Hall of Famer Hank Aaron as the only Braves to lead the majors in RBIs. Aaron achieved such in 1957, 1960, 1963 and 1966.
“It’s cool,” Olson said. “Obviously some of the guys (in the record books) are players I grew up watching, being a Braves guy (Atlanta native) and idolizing. When you’re in the middle of a season, you don’t really think about it too much. You just carry on. Maybe get into the offseason and enjoy a beer over it.”
3. Olson’s homer made more history, too. It was the Braves’ 47th first-inning home run, setting a new MLB record. That record shouldn’t surprise anyone given how the Braves have destroyed opposing pitching throughout the season, but especially in the opening frame.
4. The Braves aren’t thinking about spring training 2024 right now, but they’ll have some exciting young pitchers to see when they report down to Florida (and some of these players could even make the upcoming postseason roster). One night after Darius Vines impressed, AJ Smith-Shawver stifled a Cubs team desperate for a win. Smith-Shaver, who hit 100 mph in the first inning, went 3-2/3 innings. He allowed no hits, one run, one walk and struck out two.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there tonight,” Smith-Shawver said. “I thought I executed pretty well. Had a little bit of trouble in the first inning but worked through it, so that was a good outing. Definitely something I can build on.”
Manager Brian Snitker said Smith-Shawver has continuously improved with each outing, to which the pitcher responded: “I promise you, I’m trying.”
5. Snitker said the Braves were playing to win entering this series. They still needed to clinch homefield advantage, but they didn’t seem likely to carry the same urgency as the Cubs, who are fighting to secure a wild card. But the Braves delivered a massive blow to the Cubs’ postseason aspirations with two comeback wins and Thursday’s finisher. Chicago was swept despite leading in each game.
“Our guys played just like we were the ones fighting for that playoff spot,” Snitker said. “Which I’m very proud of them. They got after it, which I wouldn’t expect anything less out of this group. They love to compete. They understand what was at stake right there. That was a good club coming in here and we played really well for those three games. It was good to see.”
Before this series, the Cubs seemed likelier to own the 5-seed, which would send them to Philadelphia next week for the best-of-three Wild Card series. Instead, the Diamondbacks are in the driver’s seat for that spot and the Cubs are seriously at risk of missing the postseason altogether. It might come down to the final day to see whether the Cubs or Marlins earn the final spot.
“(The Cubs are) a good team,” said third baseman Austin Riley, who finished a homer shy of the cycle. “They’re not far off, I think. They have a lot of good pitching and good players. It was huge for us. Any time you can gain games in front of our fans, it’s a huge plus. I think it helps us even more in big games.”
Stat to know
103 (The Braves’ 103 wins are their most since 1999. The franchise record is 106 victories, set in 1998, so the Braves could match that by sweeping the Nationals this weekend.)
“They’re breaking records every time they swing the bat nowadays. It’s kind of crazy to watch that.” – Smith-Shawver on the Braves’ offense
The Braves open their final series of the regular season Friday against the Nationals. They’ll start Allan Winans (1-2, 4.33) against Nationals right-hander Trevor Williams (6-10, 5.55).