In a game that could be fairly coined “excruciatingly interminable,” the Braves sauntered a way to their first win in the third of four games against the Mets.
The Braves’ Sean Newcomb nor the Mets’ Jason Vargas could persist through two innings, kindling an aeonic walk fest that concluded 11-7 in the home team’s favor Saturday night.
Twelve runs were plated in the first two innings, with the Braves earning an 8-4 lead. Vargas pitched only a third of an inning, walking three and giving up four runs. Newcomb made it through 1-1/3, also allowing four runs while walking two.
The offense had the bounce back it needed after struggling in the first two games of the series. Every player in the starting lineup, sans catcher Alex Jackson, had a hit. Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, Josh Donaldson, Nick Markakis and Johan Camargo had multi-hit evenings.
A cherry on top: Donaldson and Markakis hit their first homers of the season. It was a long time coming for Donaldson, who’s come on lately. But the story was Touki Toussaint, who provided six innings and spared the Braves from dipping deep into their bullpen. He protected the lead on a night runs weren’t hard to come by.
The Braves jumped out to a four-run lead in the first. Vargas faced six hitters, walking half of them, with a Freeman’s fly out his only redeemable mark. He was pulled after walking Dansby Swanson with the bases loaded, resulting in a 2-0 game. After Mets manager Mickey Callaway was ejected, Camargo plated another two with a single.
Just as soon as the Braves took that lead, they relinquished it. It took just six Mets hitters, spanning roughly 12 minutes, to even the score. Newcomb permitted a single, walk, single, double, sacrifice fly, single. Manager Brian Snitker had seen enough and turned to Toussaint.
“Things happened fast,” Newcomb said. “A walk, some singles. I was getting ahead of guys but I wasn’t putting them away, so the pitch count got up quick in the second inning. … I think there are times you get caught trying to manage the game a little bit. I need to do a better job of staying on the attack for sure.”
Said Snitker, “He has to be on the attack every time he tows that rubber. It’s got to be leaving it all out there. He works hard and all, but you have to figure out some way – the stuff is too good. He’s got weapons.”
Unlike those who preceded him, Toussaint was impressive on a night he was originally scheduled to start in Triple-A Gwinnett. The right-hander pitched six one-run innings (85 pitches), saving the Braves from exhausting their bullpen. He struck out seven and walked two. He held the Mets to four hits.
“I told him when he came in after I took him out, ‘I’d tell you great job but that’d be an understatement,’ ” Snitker said. “That was just awesome. That was so big right now for where we’re at. That was really good. Really impressive.”
Toussaint exited to a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd.
“I got chills,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to do. That’s something you dream of as a kid, walking off the field and getting that standing O. It felt good.”
Newcomb possesses tantalizing potential, but the lefty’s control issues have defined his career through 52 starts. Despite owning a 1.64 ERA coming in, his command inconsistencies have remained his Achilles heel. Given the Braves’ abundance of options, the team could opt to replace Newcomb in the rotation if the same concerns pile up.
But that’s one possibility. The team could stick with Newcomb, hoping he develops a better feel for the zone, or they could opt to let the lefty hone his craft in Triple-A. That luxury is made possible by the team’s wealth of pitching.
“It’s our job to keep working with him and run him out there until he figures it out,” Snitker said.
In regards to Toussaint potentially making a start in the near future: “We’ll talk about it this evening. … That (being ready Saturday) speaks volumes of him. I’m so impressed with that young man anyway from last year, the way he works, the dedication.”
Julio Teheran will handle Sunday’s finale for the Braves. They’re tasked with defeating New York’s Jacob deGrom, the reigning Cy Young winner.
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