As far as bookends go, Matt Joyce’s second-inning solo shot to put the Braves on the board and Freddie Freeman’s 36th home run of season in the ninth were the perfect complement in an offensive resurgence Wednesday night.
The 9-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a two-game losing streak and capped off a 4-2 road trip for the National League East leaders, who at 42-27 have the best road record in the NL.
“It was good,” manager Brian Snitker said afterwards of the nine-run, 11-hit outburst. “We needed that, we needed to come out and score some runs and it’s good to get on the board early so it was kind of something that was a smattering of what we’re capable of.”
With the big four of Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Josh Donaldson posting a combined 16-for-102 on the six-game swing through New York, Colorado and Toronto, the manager was pleased to see some production coming from further down the lineup, with both Joyce and Adeiny Hechavarria, starting in place of a rested Dansby Swanson, each driving in a pair.
“That bottom half of the lineup was big in New York, all three of those games,” Snitker said. “That’s a good thing because those guys, that’s about as good as it gets and when they’re not hitting on all cylinders you can still win games, that’s pretty good.”
Before the game, the skipper had told the media that his team’s offense was in a “rut,” courtesy of an 11-game stretch where the Braves had averaged 3.6 runs per game with a hitting average of .198. But he said as long as his players continued to grind, they would eventually come out of it.
Joyce wasted no time in getting the offense kick-started with a solo shot into the second deck in right field for his fifth home run of the season. In a bat-around inning, Rafael Ortega and Freeman also drove in a run apiece while Acuna Jr. plated a pair with a double to left field to give the Braves an early 5-0 advantage.
That proved a welcome sight to Mike Foltynewicz, who made his 16th start of the season on Wednesday. Though he lasted just 4-2/3 innings before being replaced by Luke Jackson, Atlanta has now won each of Foltynewicz’s last eight starts stretching back to June 11.
“They got me some runs early, it was awesome to see,” Foltynewicz said. “We all know what this offense can do and we just run into a roadblock sometimes and it was awesome to see five runs in the second and I just tried to hold it down as best [as I could].”
The right-hander allowed eight hits, three runs (two of which were earned) and struck out three on 98 pitches to remain undefeated in four career appearances against the Blue Jays. Jackson ultimately picked up the win to move to 8-2 on the season.
“I might have been just a little bit too rushed on the mound today,” Foltynewicz said. “I think I’m just a little excited because I know what these games mean down the road.”
The Braves avoided a scare early on when catcher Francisco Cervelli was removed from the game during the second inning after feeling a cramp in his left quad while running the bases. Tyler Flowers replaced him for the rest of the game and though he was 2-for-4 at the plate, he also tied his career high with his 14th and 15th passed balls of the season, to go along with another from Cervelli in the first inning.
Ultimately though, Snitker said removing Cervelli, who has only been a member of the Braves since Saturday, was the right approach.
“He was smart about it,” Snitker said of his catcher. “… He tested strong with the doctors and it was good that we erred on the side of caution with that one.”
But the Braves finished with a flourish as Freeman continued to build on his career high in home runs, and his two-RBI night gave him 107, only two away from tying his personal best in that department, too.
“That was nice,” the first baseman said. “I’ve been grinding for a couple of weeks, and just when I thought I was going to get hot there with three hits against the Marlins but it didn’t happen. Hopefully this is a jump start and I can finish strong throughout September.”
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