(Photo Credit: Kevin Liles/Atlanta Braves)
Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- Thanks to some late-inning offensive magic, the Atlanta Braves outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays all the way to the final out in a final score of 9-5.
Game one of a two-game series between one of Major League Baseball’s biggest surprise teams in the Braves and one of its hottest in the Rays did not disappoint, as we were given an offensive showcase that had almost every play in the book. From sacrifice plays to clutch home runs, the game went back and forth to the very end until Atlanta was able to come out with the victory in front of their home crowd.
Entering the game following an off day after having played 22 games in 20 days, the Braves offense looked rejuvenated against Tampa Bay, who came to SunTrust Park having won eight straight games including a sweep against the Boston Red Sox.
Scoring two runs in the first three innings, the Rays were up quick on Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran. Atlanta would battle back in the bottom of the third, however, as the inning was led off with a sharp single by second baseman Ozzie Albies. After advancing to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Julio Teheran, center fielder Ender Inciarte would drive in the Braves first run with a single into right field.
The score would remain the same until the bottom of the fifth inning, where Atlanta’s offense would explode for four runs, giving them a 5-2 advantage over Tampa Bay following a two-run double by All-Star veteran Nick Markakis.
Teheran would try to hold the lead and finish his outing by pitching through the sixth inning, but a two-run home run by the Rays’ Brandon Lowe would pull Tampa Bay back within one-run. That would end Julio’s night, who handed off the game to the bullpen with a 5-4 lead.
The lead would hold until the top of the eighth, as the Rays would tie the game with an rbi single from Willy Adames, scoring Tommy Pham.
The stage would then be set for the Braves offense in the bottom of the eighth, as a leadoff walk by catcher Kurt Suzuki, followed by a double by Ozzie Albies, would give Atlanta runners on second and third base with nobody out. After pinch running Suzuki for outfielder Adam Duvall, the Braves would regain the lead after a groundout by Dansby Swanson, which gave Duvall enough time to barely beat the throw to the plate.
Pinch-hitter Tyler Flowers, who signed a contract extension earlier in the day, would break the game open with a three-run home run on the next at-bat, pushing the lead to three runs, and Ender Inciarte would give Atlanta their final run with the second home run of the inning.
The Rays would get the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, but were unable to score, giving us the final score of 9-5.
It was a great offensive day for several Braves players, who had 12 hits as a team. Leading Atlanta was Ender Inciarte, who went a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate, including his eighth-inning home run. Inciarte is now hitting .307 in 36 games since the All-Star break and has been a big reason for Atlanta’s continued success.
Also standing out was Ozzie Albies, who went 3 for 3, reaching base a fourth time with a walk. Albies is one of the Braves young rising stars but had been scuffling in the second half of the season. After the day off heading into today’s game, Ozzie appeared to have his legs back under him and was putting together good at-bats and making good contact all game.
Following the game, Braves head coach Brian Snitker talked about the rejuvenated look of his offense following the day off saying, “I’ve been waiting for the offense to kick in, we are better than what we’ve shown [the last few] days, but that’s just the way it goes.” He continued, “I loved the way the guys fought and kept coming at them.”
The win improves the Braves record to 74-57 on the season and increases their division lead over the Philadelphia Phillies to 4.5 games after they lost to the Washington Nationals in heartbreaking fashion earlier in the night.
First-pitch from Atlanta and Tampa Bay will be at 7:35 p.m. from SunTrust Park, as the Braves, look to continue to build on their division lead, sending lefty Sean Newcomb to the mound to start.