Braves 7, Rays 4
The Atlanta Braves got back to .500 on Wednesday night as they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in their home opener at Truist Park. This return to Truist Park was much needed for the Braves, as they had dropped two straight against the Rays while being outscored 19-7.
Braves Strike First
In the bottom of the third, with the game tied 0-0, outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. started the inning with a single off Rays ace Charlie Morton. Morton then got second baseman Ozzie Albies to ground out, but Acuña advanced to second. Then, first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate and belted his first home run of the season to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 30, 2020
Offenses Come Alive in Sixth Inning
The Braves led 2-1 going into the sixth inning before the Rays scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Braves starter Mike Soroka had been solid up until the sixth, but a Joey Wendle single and a walk to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo forced Braves manager Brian Snitker to call upon reliever Darren O’Day. O’Day retired outfielder Manuel Margot on four pitches, but then things started to go downhill for Atlanta. Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier singled to center to drive in Wendle, and right fielder Hunter Renfroe came through with a two-run, two-out single to give Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead. O’Day then walked Rays shortstop Willy Adames but struck out catcher Mike Zunino to end the inning.
Now down 4-2, it was time for the Braves offense to rally. And they did just that. Back-to-back doubles from Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Dansby Swanson made it a 4-3 game and gave the Braves life once again. With Oliver Drake now on the mound for the Rays, Albies came to the plate with runners on first and third and two out. Albies proceeded to hit a high chopper that Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe could not handle, and Atlanta tied the game at four. Freeman came through again as he would follow Albies with a single to give Atlanta a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh.
Braves Bullpen Finishes Strong
With a 5-4 lead in the seventh, lefty A.J. Minter took the mound for Atlanta. Minter proceeded to strike out the first two batters he faced and successfully fielded a ground out to send the game to the bottom of the seventh.
When asked about how encouraged he was with Minter’s performance, Snitker responded, “Very. He’s thrown really well here in our camp and to start this thing off. So that can be a huge shot in the arm for us.”
The Braves would add on two more runs in the seventh for a 7-4 lead, and the bullpen would continue to dominate. As a result, Minter, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon combined to strike out three batters and did not allow a single hit in the final three innings.
Freeman’s Impressive Night
After a lackluster start to the 2020 season, Freddie Freeman finally broke through, going 4-5 with a home run and three RBI. Coming into this game, he had a slash line of .143/.400/.214 without a home run and only one RBI. He was also fresh off an 0-4 game with four strikeouts.
“That’s the beauty of this game,” Freeman said. “[I] got to come back here today and switch it up a little bit. So that’s the thing with this game. You’ve got to be positive every single day.”
Don’t forget, Freeman tested positive for COVID-19 before the 2020 season and did not report for Spring Training 2.0 until one week before the season started. So this slow start from the Braves star was not too alarming. Nevertheless, both Freeman and the Braves will hope that he can build on this game and keep producing for Atlanta’s lineup.
The Braves will host the Rays again tomorrow night at 7:10 Eastern. Atlanta will send left-handed pitcher Max Fried (0-0 record, 3.60 ERA) to the mound. Tampa Bay will counter with left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough (0-0 record, 0.00 ERA).
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