June is now officially Hug a Bearded Grizzled Brave Month.
All you youngsters filling up that Atlanta clubhouse, just for the moment get off their lawn.
Monday it was 35-year-old Nick Markakis, bagging four RBI to push his career total over the 1,000 mark and passing it off thusly: “It means I’m getting older, right?”
The Braves celebrated that milestone with a champagne toast. Better go back to Total Wine and re-stock. Because after Brian McCann’s two-homer Tuesday against Pittsburgh, there’s going to be another post-game bacchanal soon. There’s going to be more sparkling wine consumed in this clubhouse this summer than in all the pages of “The Great Gatsby.”
His four RBI pushed McCann to 997 for his career, just three away. He’s also 35, but that’s in catcher’s years, so add 10. And he wants a party of his own.
“Yeah, hopefully it happens,” he said. “You got to play a long time and be consistent and show up day in and day out. To do that (collect 1,000 RBI) is a great milestone. Watching him get it done, I want to do the same thing.”
His second homer of a long, rain-delayed night, a three-run shot in the sixth inning, turned out to be decisive. In another game rife with home runs — that’s 10 for the Braves these last two nights at SunTrust — McCann’s was the last one and the difference-maker in a 7-5 victory over the Pirates. With just three outs to get in the ninth, the game was halted by a siege of showers. One-hour-and-48-minutes later, the game was called and the Braves had their fifth straight win. It was their eighth victory in 10 games in June.
All around baseball, home run records are falling, and now the Braves seem to have fully joined the fun. This team has 99 homers thus far, second only to 2003’s output at this point in 112 years of Braves baseball in various cities.
“I’m watching it everywhere, every game that you see. Balls are flying all over the place,” Snitker said.
“We knew this was a potent offense. It’s good to see guys starting to hit their stride a little bit,” he said.
“It’s top to bottom,” McCann said, when addressing the potency of this Braves lineup. “We’re athletic. We make you throw strikes. We’re tough to get through on a nightly basis, from top to bottom. We showed it again tonight.”
At least McCann’s second home run came with someone on base. Prior to that, they were coming in such quick succession in a rather remarkable second inning that no Brave deigned stop at any base that wasn’t pentagon shaped.
While appealing his one-game suspension for Monday’s misdemeanor baseball brawlery against these same Pirates, Josh Donaldson at least spent his time profitably Tuesday. He doinked a ball off the right field foul pole in that second inning, a shot that turned out to be like a loud sneeze on a snowy peak. The avalanche had been triggered. And Pittsburgh starter Chris Archer was in its path.
Markakis followed with a home run of far more majesty, 417 feet to center, splashing in the water feature way out yonder.
Back-to-back home runs.
Pause. An Austin Riley strikeout, the totals of which are mounting (11 in his last six games).
McCann, who returned home to the Braves this season after five years wandering in New York and Houston, then launched. That would be his first home run in Atlanta while wearing the home team’s colors since 2013. He wouldn’t be done, so call this one merely foreshadowing.
Then Ozzie Albies hit one over the left field barrier, his third in four at-bats against Pittsburgh, going back to Monday.
Within moments, the Braves had themselves 1,558 feet of home run. And a bit of history — it was the first time since the Braves moved to Atlanta that the team went back-to-back twice in one inning (before that, it was the esteemed Milwaukee combination of Joe Torre-Felipe Alou and Hank Aaron-Gene Oliver in 1965). And, returning to this century, they had a 4-2 lead.
To Archer’s credit, he did not immediately shrink from such an assault. He held the Braves right there at four for the next three innings, a small gift for the pitching-strapped Pirates. Pittsburgh tied the game off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who went five innings, giving up the four runs on five hits, striking out five and walking four. Still not the stuff of a 2018 All-Star.
It was good enough, though, because eventually the Braves would victimize Archer one more time.
McCann’s three-run homer in the sixth capped his 15th career multi-home run game, his first since he was with the Yankees in 2016.
Yes, that knee that had troubled him so in Houston is feeling better now. Some recent adjustments he made to catch up to the fastball did the rest.
“I’m healthy. I feel good. I got my bat speed back,” he said.
Some nights, he even feels young again. And thirsty.
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