We could have gone back into the archives and copied and pasted much of this recap but, at the end of the day, chose to write it up from scratch. The starting pitcher kept the team in the game, the bats went cold in the late innings, the opponent walked it off, and, for the eighth consecutive time, the Red Sox did not win a series. Nathan Eovaldi had to battle through one tough inning but had his good stuff overall and found his way to a quality start against the defending champions. The Sox got some key hits early, including the first home run of Trevor Story’s Boston career, and built up a 3-0 lead. Ultimately, after a lot of punchless and scoreless innings, a horrendous call from the home plate umpire which may have sent the game an entirely different direction, and one bad pitch from Ryan Brasier, our final score was Braves 5, Red Sox 3.
Both teams went 1-2-3 in the first inning. After a quick top of the inning from Braves starter Ian Anderson, the bottom half opened with an outstanding catch by Alex Verdugo on a line drive off the bat of Dansby Swanson. Verdugo broke in on the ball and made a diving catch. Eovaldi’s splitter was filthy in the early going, getting a few swings and misses on the pitch leading to strikeouts of Matt Olson and Travis d’Arnaud. In fact, the Braves swung at 12 splitters over the course of the game, missing seven of them, a 58 percent whiff rate.
The action started in the second when Alex Verdugo roped a one-out double down the right field line. He was followed by Trevor Story who hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform, and it was a no doubter. A 408-foot shot to dead center field with a 105.8 mph exit velocity to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. Eovaldi once again rolled through the bottom of the inning, inducing a couple of weak outs followed by a line out by Ozzie Albies.
The Red Sox extended the lead in the third inning, despite having the potential for more. Jackie Bradley Jr. ripped a curve ball into right field but was then caught stealing easily for the first out. With two outs, Rafael Devers doubled to deep right field before being knocked in by a lined single to center field by J.D. Martinez who continues to contribute on a nightly basis. The throw home was close, but Devers slid in safely. Taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the inning, a string of seven straight batters retired to start the game for Eovaldi went south fast. After an Orlando Arcia single (remember that name), nine-hitter Travis Demeritte crushed a 415-foot bomb to quickly cut the lead to 3-2. After a Dansby Swanson walk and stolen base, Matt Olson tied the game with an RBI double that nearly left the yard, as well, knotting the game at 3-3. To his credit, Eovaldi limited the damage in the inning, and for the remainder of the night, by retiring the next two batters and stranding Olson.
Things calmed down at that point for the foreseeable future. Each team mustered only a baserunner in the fourth and fifth innings combined, an Adam Duvall infield single in the fourth for Atlanta, and a Kevin Plawecki leadoff double in the fifth for Boston. Three straight non-productive outs stranded Plawecki at second.
The fireworks returned in the top of the sixth, leaving the Red Sox with a lighter roster than they arrived to the game with. Martinez’s second single of the game led off the inning and, after a Bogaerts pop out, Verdugo walked to knock Anderson out of the game. Collin McHugh entered the game in relief and got the second out on a Story fielder’s choice before walking Franchy Cordero on four pitches to load the bases for Kevin Plawecki.
Plawecki worked the count full, continuing to lay off tough pitches from McHugh before taking what looked like ball four to presumably walk in the go-ahead run. Home plate umpire Adam Beck rung up Plawecki, who slammed his helmet, added a few words, and was quickly ejected from the game. Alex Cora had no choice but to get run from the game over such a game-changing call, and he certainly got his money’s worth.
Eovaldi battled through the bottom of the sixth, allowing only a one-out double to Austin Riley. A Marcell Ozuna fly to right appeared to have a chance but was caught at the track by Bradley. He had reached Quality Start status when all was said and done, a designation that seemed unlikely during a lengthy third inning.
The Braves brought on lefty A.J. Minter in the seventh who nailed down a quick 1-2-3 inning. A strike two call on Devers before an eventual strikeout was noticeably outside and Adam Beck had gotten under the skin of another Sox player before Devers wisely walked away. Eovaldi came out for the bottom of the seventh, still throwing 98 mph and struck out Duvall before an Arcia single ended his night after 98 pitches. Eovaldi topped out at 99.1 mph on the outing and averaged 97.1 on the fastball. Acting manager Will Venable called on Matt Strahm who many have called in to be the closer by default, in a bullpen of disarray. Strahm continued his dominance, retiring all three batters he faced, including the final two batters of the seventh on strikeouts swinging. The score stayed at 3-3, entering the 8th.
The Braves brought on another lefthander Will Smith who came out swinging like it was the Oscars, striking out two, and only allowing a walk to Bogaerts. In the bottom of the 8th, after Strahm quickly retired Olson on a fly out, righthander John Schreiber was brought on. Having pitched two full innings last night, and earning his first career save, Schreiber got the final two outs with a hit batter sandwiched in between to send the game to the 9th.
In the top of the ninth, former Dodger great Kenley Jansen was brought on for his first Braves appearance against the Red Sox. He did walk Christian Vazquez in his lone plate appearance, after the Plawecki ejection, but struck out two and allowed an inning-ending flyout to Enrique Hernandez who just got under it.
Ryan Brasier opened the ninth, also pitching for the second consecutive night, and this one did not go as smoothly. After Ozzie Albies flicked a tough fastball away into left field, Brasier threw numerous pickoff attempts over to first, concerned about the speedy Albies. Perhaps too concerned, the count was worked to 2-0 and Brasier threw a fastball “middle-middle” to Arcia. His third hit of the game was a 105.2 MPH line shot that landed just over the wall, a 382-foot home run to walk it off for the Braves. The final score: 5-3.