Last Week in Atlanta – Week 9

I asked last week whether the Braves bats were coming alive – well, from this week’s evidence it looks like they’re flatlining again. Atlanta’s slump continues, but there is a little light in the dark courtesy of two big wins in the desert. 

Overall Record: 35-24, 1st place in NL East

Record this week: 3-3

Best moment of the week: 

As foreshadowed in my previous columns, my favourite moment of the week was seeing Michael Soroka make his return from three years worth of injuries. After two consecutive achilles tears and a hamstring strain that sidelined him for spring training, he finally made his return to a major league diamond as he went six innings against the Oakland A’s, giving up five runs alongside three strikeouts. His start later in the week against the Diamondbacks was a little shakier, as he failed to get out of the fourth inning – but to see him back at all is a sight to behold. As he warms back into major league action, I’m excited to see him return to his imperious 2019 form.

Worst moment of the week:

A’s fans are having a tough time – their owner, the petty cheapskate John Fisher, is ripping the heart out of a passionate baseball fan base by putting out a terrible team, investing nothing and trying to move it to the place that offers the most money. And as much as I sympathise – we really don’t need to be giving them any wins. The Braves are now the only team that the A’s have beaten in a series this year, and the two wins they managed against the Braves account for almost 17% of their wins on the season. The Braves looked poor in all facets of the game, and even the lone win of the wasn’t convincing – scraping together four runs against a team that was starting a pitcher that boasts a 8.12 ERA on the season. 

Player of the week:

Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! As he came up to bat in the top of the ninth on Sunday, Eddie Rosario had the bases loaded with two outs, and the Braves were down a run. As the Braves-heavy crowd serenaded him, with memories of his magical run in the 2021 playoffs, the fans barely had time to be nervous, as he crushed the fifth grand slam of his career to right field to give the Braves an unassailable lead. That was the third Rosario homer of the series – somehow delivering two solo shots in a game the Braves lost 3-2 – making him a worthy winner of player of the week. 

WTF moment of the week:

Fittingly, this moment comes from one of the Braves losses to the A’s. In a game that the Braves managed a grand total of five baserunners all game, they’d still kept the scores tied at one a piece going into the final frame thanks to an excellent outing from Bryce Elder. The normally solid Raisel Iglesias came in to keep the score tied, and surrendered three walks before inducing a sharply hit grounder to Austin Riley at third. It was hit hard enough to get the force at home, and maybe to even turn two and get out of the inning – but Riley booted it, allowing the run the score and handing the A’s a walk-off win. Brutal.

View from the other side:

This week, we have Bat Flips and Nerds’ own Oakland A’s correspondent Brett Walker to give his take on the A’s/Braves debacle series. He’s on twitter at @BrettChatsSport, and you can read his excellent contributions to BFAN here

I’m as surprised as anyone that this A’s team beat that Braves team. Particularly given they have our best players from the last two seasons in Matt Olson and Sean Murphy.

I’m biased, but I think the A’s did deserve to win the first game on Monday. As much as all of the neutrals will have been willing Michael Soroka to win the pitching duel given he’d be out injured for nearly three years, Paul Blackburn generally performed quite well in his own return from injury, only conceding one run. The deciding factor in this first game of the series for me was the bottom of the fifth inning when the A’s scored three runs. Given Soroka hadn’t played a game in the major leagues since August 2020, it was a bad idea in hindsight for Braves coach Brian Snitker to leave him in the game for six innings.

As for the second game on Tuesday, while the A’s kept themselves in the game throughout, we were lucky to win that game and the series. I don’t mind admitting that the only reason we won that second game was because of a terrible pitching performance in the bottom of the ninth inning by Braves relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias. If you’re going to gift us with third consecutive walks in the bottom of the ninth in a walk-off situation, even this A’s team would struggle to screw that up.

Finally, the Braves deserved to win the third and final game of the series. It admittedly took until the fifth inning, but the quality of the Braves bats eventually shone through against a pitcher in James Kaprielian who is now in his third season in the major leagues with the A’s and, for me, is not good enough to be pitching at this level.

Optimism tracker:

6/10. It’s tough to stay optimistic after dropping a series to the worst team in the league, but perspective is key – the Braves are still 3.5 games ahead of the 32-28 Marlins (!) in the NL East, have the best record in the NL (by virtue of having one fewer loss than the also 35-win Diamondbacks and Dodgers) and are still not playing at their full potential. The best is yet to come! 

What’s on next week?

Next week the Braves look to bolster their record against the NL East as they have a three game set against the Mets from Tuesday to Thursday, followed by a series against the Nationals from Friday to Sunday. The pitching matchup of the week is undoubtedly Thursday’s showdown between Spencer Strider and Justin Verlander – it promises to be unmissable viewing.

UK friendly games: 

Saturday 10 June vs Nationals (9:10pm), Sunday 11 June vs Nationals (6:35pm)

Featured image of Eddie Rosario by Joseph Rondone of USA Today Sports.

Charlie Deeks is the Atlanta Braves correspondent on Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @Omashaft!

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