Bradley’s Buzz: Eddie Rosario delivers a big hit at a fine time

Eddie Rosario smiles in the dugout after his grand slam against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 4, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Eddie Rosario smiles in the dugout after his grand slam against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 4, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The Braves were one out from a 2-4 week and a chastened flight home. They’d lost a series in Oakland, which hardly seemed possible. (The rampaging A’s seized on their fortune to get swept in Miami by the aggregate score of 23-6.) Now they were about to lose a series to the Diamondbacks.

Sunday’s ninth inning began with Michael Harris drawing a five-pitch walk from Miguel Castro. Ronald Acuna, the best player in baseball, singled and stole second. Matt Olson watched a 3-2 slider. One out. Austin Riley was walked on purpose. Travis d’Arnaud lined to shortstop. Two out.

Up stepped Eddie Rosario, MVP of the 2021 NLCS. He’d homered twice in Friday’s game. That night, he’d singled in the ninth off a Castro changeup. That rally fell short. On Sunday, Castro started Rosario with another changeup. Ball 1. Then came a sinker that didn’t sink. It’s a pitch – a flat fastball – that gets hit a long way. Rosario hoped he’d hit it far enough.

Right fielder Pavin Smith retreated to the fence, where he leaped and flipped his glove over the barrier. Didn’t matter. Smith could have had a clown-sized mitt and he wouldn’t have snagged Rosario’s drive. The grand slam – if the fielder throws his glove at it, shouldn’t you get a fifth run? – won the game and ensured the journey home from Sky Harbor would be, to borrow a Tony La Russa phrase, a Happy Flight.

Not to say that the Braves needed that … but they kind of did. They’d gone 15-14 in May. They were one out from starting June 1-2. After a week that saw them go 3-4 against the Dodgers and Phillies, they were on the verge of a 2-4 Western swing.

Michael Soroka’s second big-league start since 2020 hadn’t gone well — 3⅔ innings, seven hits, four walks, five earned runs. Brian Snitker benched Marcell Ozuna for admiring a 415-foot single. Friday’s loss, closed by Castro, ended with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Had Rosario’s liner traveled 376 feet, as opposed to 381, the same would have happened again. But it didn’t.

It was only one game, but it came at a fine time. The Braves won a series against an opponent that, when the day began, has a better record than they did. (No more, though.) They’d lost three one-run games over nine days; this would have been a fourth. (Wasn’t, though.) Their Happy Flight would lead into a day of rest. On Tuesday, the Mets come to Cobb County for the first time in 2023.

As of Thursday, the Mets had climbed to 30-27 and pulled with 3½ games of first place. Toronto went to Queens and swept the Mets. (The Braves had a similar Blue Jay experience; that’s a stout fourth-place team.) The priciest roster ever assembled is back to .500. The Mets are 5½ games behind the Braves.

There’s no cause to freak out over the Braves – they lead the National League in ERA; they’re second in runs scored – but they’re 10-13 since May 9. They’d been playing better competition, yes. They’d also been doing it without Max Fried and Kyle Wright. They’re no longer on a 100-win pace, not that it matters. They’d have to fall apart to miss the playoffs. This team is too good to fall apart.

Still, even a good team needs the occasional reminder: “This is what good teams do.” That was the feeling that carried the Braves’ charter home from PHX.

And the Mets? As they fly south, they’re free to ponder the latest headline from the always-cheerful New York Post: “About Farce! Mets March Backward.”

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