The Braves clobbered the Phillies in Sunday’s series finale, further distancing themselves from the wounds of opening weekend and sending a message to their chief competitors: The Braves are the National League East favorites.
After the rivals traded thrilling ninth-inning comebacks, the Braves left no doubt Sunday, crushing the Phillies 15-1 to win the series and go up 2-1/2 games in the NL East. The teams will see each other again in early July, but the Braves leave this meeting with the upper hand.
“(This is the best we’ve played) up to date,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Just putting it all together. We’re getting some guys hot. The bullpen has done a great job in the last week, longer than that really. We’ve played some really good baseball.”
Fifteen runs and 19 hits were both season-high for the Braves. They decimated a collection of Phillies arms in Vince Velasquez, Cole Irvin and Jerad Eickhoff.
The Braves moved to 5-1 in the ensuing game following a blown save. They’re developing a real homefield advantage, now 22-16 at SunTrust Park with a record 126,423 fans in attendance for the weekend series.
Sunday’s beatdown began with a three-run first inning. Ronald Acuna was struck by a pitch and advanced on starter Velasquez’s throwing error. Following Dansby Swanson’s single, Freddie Freeman lasered a double just fair past first base, scoring both runners.
Josh Donaldson pushed the lead to 5-0 with a two-run shot in the third. Donaldson homered in each of the three games and suddenly looks revived. Once the game’s most feared hitter outside Mike Trout, Donaldson’s body is cooperating and he’s seeing results against breaking pitches.
“He’s having some good at-bats,” Snitker said. “He’s squaring balls. He’s not missing them. He’s not fouling balls back. He’s getting good decisions on the pitches he should. The bat speed is unbelievable. When he gets going, he’s the type of guy that can carry you.”
The Braves scored two runs each in the third, fourth and fifth innings. They plated one in the sixth before busting out five in the seventh. Acuna, Donaldson and Flowers each homered on the afternoon.
With Donaldson putting it together, the Braves’ lineup has no weak points. Sunday is an extreme example, but their work lately rates them among the league’s elite. It’s why they’re 9-1 in their last 10 games.
“Over the last two weeks, our offense has been doing a great job working at-bats, battling,” Donaldson said. “Being able to manufacture runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark up and down the lineup is pretty impressive to watch.”
Acuna, Freeman, Donaldson, Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Mike Foltynewicz and Tyler Flowers had RBIs for the Braves, who are averaging almost eight runs a game over their 10-game stretch. Acuna, Freeman, Donaldson, Albies, Flowers and Markakis had two RBI.
Foltynewicz’s start defined the “effectively wild” baseball sentiment. Despite four hits and five walks over six innings, he held the Phillies to a run. As Mike Soroka and Max Fried come back to earth, Foltynewicz’s consistency becomes that much more important. Sunday was far from pretty — at times it was even ugly — but it was more than enough.
“It felt really good,” Foltynewicz said. “It was a good, solid day to get this W. ... We really made a point out there throughout the whole game that we’re for real. We’re going to keep playing baseball the way we know how.”
If the offense remains anywhere close to as deadly as it’s become, the Braves don’t need five renditions of Greg Maddux. They need their pitchers to hold serve. Dallas Keuchel represents incoming reinforcements, while the team’s armory of assets should help it acquire bullpen aid in July.
The Braves open a three-game set against the Mets beginning Monday. New York, floating around the .500 mark, will start Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in the series.
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