It was the best and worst Braves game you’ll see.
Thrilling moments have painted the picture of the first-place Braves’ season. Their latest win, a 5-4 victory in Phoenix, was perhaps the most dramatic of them all.
“That was a good one,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “I might be 28-years-old with some gray hair now, but that was an exciting ballgame. That was a big win for us.”
In the second extra-inning affair of the series Saturday, one loaded with walks, six errors and seemingly infinite men left stranded in four hours of baseball, the sixth error and a defensive gem loomed largest.
With Freddie Freeman at second in the 10th inning, Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt fielded a Nick Markakis grounder and flipped the ball beyond reliever Andrew Chafin, allowing Freeman to round third and score. Ender Inciarte plated an important insurance run with a triple.
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The Diamondbacks responded against A.J. Minter. Steven Souza walked and Nick Ahmed singled, while both were advanced into scoring position by Chris Owings’ grounder.
A.J. Pollack singled, scoring Souza; Dansby Swanson stopped the bleeding. He prevented the ball from reaching centerfield, snagging the ball and immediately fired home to nail Ahmed and end the game.
“Get there at all costs,” Swanson said, recalling his mindset on the play. “Especially in that situation, even if you knock it down, that’s a win. You want to keep it in the infield. And I was able to glove it cleanly ... I don’t think anyone anticipated that I’d be able to catch it and make a throw like that, so I think that was the right play on both sides, offensively and defensively. We were just able to make it happen.”
Swanson knew Ahmed was running, citing his internal clock and the fact he’d do the same in that situation, anticipating the shortstop wouldn’t come up with the ball. The risk was minimal: If Swanson throws it home and Ahmed is at third, nothing’s lost. He had enough time to collect himself and deliver a bullet, so accuracy wouldn’t have been an issue.
“At this point of the year, it feels like every game is significant,” Swanson said. “I think that each day you learn more and more about how you play these games. You just see that with the length in which these games are played, because there’s a lot more careful, a lot more attention to detail. Every point in the game is a big moment.”
Maybe the baseball world is accustomed to the Braves’ knack for winning late. But this one was different. The 10-inning spectacular featured limitless gaffs from both teams. It had gut-wrenching moments with spurts of celebration sprinkled in.
It takes a mentally tough team to win that game. The Braves have proven time and time again they’re resilient, aggressive and expect to win, even when the odds don’t favor it.
“That game could’ve went either way for both clubs, easy,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s a growing experience every time. Every game we play, it’s the same game every night. All three of these games have been like that. It’s two really good clubs going at each other. A hit either way, or a gapper either way, can turn the game around.
“It’s been a very tough and emotional series so far.”
The teams played to a 2-2 draw until the eighth. Kurt Suzuki, in an effort to avenge himself for an earlier error and pop out with the bases loaded, guided a ball over the left-center wall for a brief 3-2 lead.
Jonny Venters walked lead-off man Eduardo Escobar. He got David Peralta on a fielder’s choice before giving way to Dan Winkler. And for the third consecutive outing, Winkler struggled. Goldschmidt flew out before Daniel Descalso doubled home the equalizer. Winkler walked Steven Souza before hitting Ketel Marte.
Enter Shane Carle with the bases loaded. He ran a 3-0 count to Ildemaro Vargas, energizing a sellout crowd in Phoenix. Carle calmly responded with two strikes, then induced Vargas into a liner to second.
Swanson’s one-out triple in the ninth put the Braves in position to lead again. Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda struck out, and late-innings hero Johan Camargo hit a weak grounder to hold the 3-3 tie.
Camargo made an error that almost cost his team in the bottom of the ninth. Attempting a double play, he threw a ball out of Ozzie Albies’ reach. The Diamondbacks loaded the bases after Chad Sobotka pitched around Goldschmidt, only for Descalso to fly out to Inciarte and send it to extras.
Earlier in the game, the Diamondbacks made three errors in getting their first four outs. Peralta misfielded a Camargo single in left, which allowed Ronald Acuna to score from second. Camargo came home on Markakis’ sacrifice fly.
But the Braves couldn’t add to their total in the second. Descalso’s error put Albies on. Clay Buchholz’s errant pickoff throw advanced him to third. Swanson grounded to Buchholz, who easily threw out Albies on a questionable attempt to score.
If it feels like the Braves are haunting by opposing pitchers’ bats, that’s because they apparently are: Buchholz, who’s spent most of his career in the American League, made Braves starter JulioTeheran pay for a leadoff walk to Souza in the second. Buchholz rocketed a double into the center-left gap for his first career extra-base hit and RBI, tying the game at two.
Arizona’s first run came courtesy of another misfire. Freeman made a nice catch at the railing in front of the Braves’ dugout. He fired home hoping to double up A.J. Pollock. Suzuki dropped the ball and was charged with an error.
The game settled after the first two innings. The Braves didn’t get another hit until the sixth, when Acuna opened with a single. The Braves loaded the bases with Freeman’s hit and Markakis’ walk, yet couldn’t capitalize.
Suzuki popped up to Descalso. Inciarte struck out on a low strike – credit Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis for the framework.
Peralta began the bottom half of the inning with a walk and steal. Teheran coaxed flyouts from Goldschmidt and Descalso before hitting Souza. He struck out bobblehead-night honoree Marte to complete his night.
It was another solid night for Teheran, who picked up his 1,000th career strikeout in the process. In his past eight starts, Teheran has permitted more than three runs once, and two or fewer five times. An encouraging sign for what was a topsy-turvy campaign prior to the run.
The Phillies lost to the Mets earlier in the night so the Braves regained a 3 1/2-game lead in the East standings. The magic number was cut to 18, and each individual contest grows in important.”
“Every day we get here and we have to win a game, it’s invaluable for the team to experience that,” Snitker said.