Braves Play Longball, Sink Diamondbacks

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Braves 6, Diamondbacks 1

PHOENIX, Sept. 21 — The Atlanta Braves smashed three home runs off Arizona Diamondbacks starter Luke Weaver, accounting for five of their six runs, en route to a 6–1 victory Tuesday night.

The Braves opened the scoring in the first with two unearned runs. A fielding error by Diamondbacks third baseman Josh VanMeter allowed Braves right fielder Jorge Soler to reach first. First baseman Freddie Freeman followed by grounding into a 4–6 force play, bringing up second baseman Ozzie Albies, who flied to left. Third baseman Austin Riley, up next, belted a 1–2 changeup deep into the left-field bleachers, accounting for the scoring.

The Braves added more in the top of the third. Freeman singled with one out to put a runner on for Albies, who crushed a 2–2 changeup halfway up the right-field bleachers. In the bottom of the inning, the Diamondbacks got on the board. Right fielder Daulton Varsho bunted for a one-out single and advanced to third on a single by the next batter, second baseman Ketel Marte. A grounder to second by first baseman Pavin Smith brought in Varsho, slashing the Braves lead to 4–1.

Braves Extend Lead over Diamondbacks, Silence Their Bats

The score became 5–1 in the top of the fifth thanks to a solo homer by Soler. No other serious threats occurred until the bottom of the eighth thanks to scoreless relief efforts from Braves relievers Drew Smyly, Jacob Webb, and Tyler Matzek as well as Diamondbacks relievers Joe Mantiply and Noe Ramirez. In the bottom of the eighth, Marte led off with a single off Luke Jackson. Two-out walks to VanMeter and pinch-hitter Kole Calhoun loaded the bases for rookie Jake McCarthy, whose first-pitch fly to center left the bases loaded. A one-out double in the top of the ninth by catcher Travis d’Arnaud — followed by an RBI single by shortstop Dansby Swanson — finalized the score.

Postgame Reflections

Weaver (3–6), despite the Quality Start, took a Tough Loss (Author’s Note: This is an actual stat.) Manager Torey Lovullo said after the game, “I thought Luke threw the ball extremely well…. He was commanding the baseball. I just think there were a couple mistakes at the at the wrong time. But overall, he did a fantastic job.”

Lovullo said about the offense, “I thought our approach at times was a little bit too aggressive. We went out of the zone from time to time.” He added, “We got staggered early in that game. The first inning, we didn’t make a play on defense, and they jumped on us for two-run home run. We kind of felt our way around the game offensively for the first couple innings. There were some quality approaches today.  Some guys had some nice days. We built (the eighth inning), put the tying run at the plate, but just couldn’t come through.”

“I thought it was a weird game, especially towards the beginning,” Weaver said. He added, “I thought I pitched pretty well. There are really two goals. Put up no runs is the obvious one, but really the two goals are to control the counts and to get deep into the game. Those are two really big ones for me, and I feel like I accomplished both of those tonight.” The runs he gave up, according to him, came from three mistakes — two changeups and a fastball in an obvious fastball count.

Looking Ahead

The loss drops the Diamondbacks to 48–103 on the season. To avoid setting a franchise record for futility, they need to win at least four of their remaining 11 games. The Braves (79–70), by winning, maintained their three-game lead in the NL East over the Philadelphia Phillies, who beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3–2, Tuesday night. Drew Smyly (10–4) earned the win for them Tuesday night in long relief.

Wednesday night will see the third game of the four-game set between these clubs. Ian Anderson (7–5, 3.75 ERA) will take the hill for the Braves against Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly (7–10, 4.41 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

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Players/managers mentioned:

Luke Weaver, Josh VanMeter, Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Daulton Varsho, Ketel Marte, Pavin Smith, Drew Smyly, Jacob Webb, Tyler Matzek, Joe Mantiply, Noe Ramirez, Luke Jackson, Kole Calhoun, Jake McCarthy, Travis d’Arnaud, Dansby Swanson, Torey Lovullo, Ian Anderson, Merrill Kelly