When Braves manager Brian Snitker switched up his lineup last weekend, he ignited an offensive revival even he probably didn’t foresee.
Behind an explosive sixth and another prodigious performance from Max Fried, the Braves outdid the Brewers, 12-8, on Friday. It was the Braves’ third win in four games this homestand, and first against Milwaukee, considered among the National League’s elite class.
“Guys are starting to feel it,” Snitker said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about and visualizing that when it happens, it could be something good.”
And it is happening: Already up 3-0, the Braves scored nine times in the sixth. Corbin Burnes began the frame, though he probably wishes he hadn’t. He was charged with seven runs over two-thirds of an inning, allowing three homers and walking two.
To sum up the bottom of the inning, Fried had a walk and double. The cycle went on long enough that the Braves lifted their southpaw after six shutout innings because he spent so much time on the bases.
Filling up the stat sheet: Dansby Swanson, Josh Donaldson and Tyler Flowers each homered in the inning. Ozzie Albies and Fried doubled. Ronald Acuna had a pair of hits and three RBIs. It was the team’s first nine-or-more-run inning in nearly 10 years, and their first since May 20, 2009 against Colorado.
Perhaps it’s the majestic influence of Acuna at leadoff, Austin Riley (who two hits) providing a jolt or just subpar opposing pitching, but the Braves have found their stroke. For the second consecutive year, a tweaked lineup might be what rejuvenates their season.
“I’ve grown accustomed to batting leadoff through my entire playing career, the minor leagues as well,” Acuna said through team interpreter Franco Garcia. “So it’s something I developed into. But I don’t care where they put me in the lineup. I’m just happy to be in it.”
Whatever the reason, they’re averaging six runs a game since Snitker maneuvered his group a week ago. That number is also influenced by a 2-1 win and a laughably bad 14-3 loss.
“I think it allows speed to play a little bit more,” Swanson said of the lineup. “It gives it diversity. We have so many great players that no matter where you put guys, there’s going to be production. It just sounds like this is the one that’s working right now. We’re feeding off each other and whenever you can get on base, in scoring position for some of those guys … they’ve been doing a great job driving those guys in too. Contributions all throughout.”
On the downside, the Braves allowed seven runs in the final two frames. Josh Tomlin gave up two homers. Jonny Venters couldn’t finish the Brewers despite a 12-4 lead with two outs in the ninth. Wes Parsons relieved him, but exited after a walk and single. Luke Jackson wrapped it up.
As great as the offense can be, the bullpen can be its detriment. The relief core remains a concern, but it’s mitigated on nights like Friday, when the offense explodes to the point it overrides the negatives.
The Braves go for a series win Saturday, with Kevin Gausman (2-3, 4.50) opposing Chase Anderson (2-0, 3.20).
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