As happened with Wheeler on Tuesday, Nola wasn’t bad. He just wasn’t as good as the Braves’ starter. Morton yielded no runs over seven innings. Fried yielded one over seven. That the Phillies scored at all was big news. On the Braves’ pivotal West Coast swing, Fried threw seven shutout innings in San Francisco after the Braves had lost the series’ first two games; in San Diego, he threw a nine-inning shutout – almost nobody does that anymore – just after the Padres had won the suspended game on Fernando Tatis’ homer off Will Smith.
Fried in August: Five starts, 33 innings, 28 strikeouts, five earned runs, an ERA of 1.36. Fried in September: Six starts, 41 innings, 36 strikeouts, seven earned runs, an ERA of 1.54. How about the Cy Young Award? Do they give that in half-season increments? If not, why not?
Back to the July imports. Soler reached base four times and scored twice. Duvall drove in the Braves’ second run. Rosario drove in the third.
Austin Riley, who has been here since 2019 but has reinvented himself as Mike Schmidt if not George Brett, drove in three runs. He has 103 this season. Isn’t there some award he can be handed? (Actually, yes. It’s called the Silver Slugger. It’s for good hitting, and it’s awarded by position. He plays third base. And maybe he should get a Gold Glove, too. Silver and gold at age 24 – not half-bad.)
Before Wednesday’s game, manager Brian Snitker said of his younger players: “They don’t know anything else but this strenuous September baseball. A lot of them came on the scene here and, next thing you know, they’re in a pennant race. It’s been a norm for their career. They have a ball with it. That first year (2018), I felt like I was in the dugout with an American Legion team, the way they were carrying on and competing and enjoying the moment.”
Credit: Atlanta Braves
Braves third baseman Austin Riley comments on the 'playoff' atmosphere and the degree to which the team feels they can compete.
Credit: Atlanta Braves
Said Riley, who hasn’t known a big-league September that didn’t lead to postseason baseball: “With the depth of our lineup and our pitching staff, we’re never out of games. We’re never out of anything.”
We note for the record: This is a lineup missing Ronald Acuna and Marcell Ozuna. This is a rotation minus Mike Soroka. And this, yet again, is a playoff team.
We’ve spent the summer grousing about the Braves’ bullpen, but it’s always instructive to see the Phillies’ relievers at work. They have 34 blown saves, tying them for the all-time seasonal high. These craftsmen haven’t been handed a lead over the two games here, but they did their bit Wednesday. The Braves led 3-2 when Nola was lifted. Eight batters later, they led 7-2. Jose Alvarado and Hector Neris each allowed two earned runs.
And that was that, and not just for Game No. 157 on schedule. That was essentially that for the National League East race. The Braves need one more victory – or one more Philadelphia loss – to do the champagne thing for a fourth year running.
Assuming that happens, they’ll be playing Milwaukee next week. No knock on the Brewers, but that’s the NL qualifier you’d prefer to face, given that the alternatives are the 100-game winning Giants and Dodgers and the rampaging Cardinals. Two months ago, we wondered if these Braves could break .500. Today we’re thinking they stand a decent chance of reaching the NLCS again. Will wonders never cease?