ATLANTA — As Vaughn Grissom rounded second and saw Braves third base coach Ron Washington wave him home, he didn’t know what to think.
“I wasn’t thrilled at first. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is probably going to be a close play,’” Grissom said.
It was certainly a close play, but it was also a play that could have lasting benefits for the Braves, who claimed a pivotal one. 3-2 win over the Mets on Thursday night at Truist Park. The win came because of Washington’s brave decision to have Grissom score Michael Harris II‘s double that bounced through the middle of the infield before ending up in center field.
“When you play two teams like the Mets and Atlanta Braves, sometimes, it just means taking a chance on an opportunity,” Washington said. “I took advantage of it and it paid off.”
Playing in just his ninth game, Grissom ended Jacob deGrom’s 95-pitch effort when he tallied a two-out single that caromed off rookie third baseman Brett Baty’s glove in the seventh. Harris then greeted Seth Lugo with a 90.3 mph chopper that apparently had eyes as it eluded the infielders and forced center fielder Brandon Nimmo to run a long way toward right-center field.
Harris slid into second base without knowing he had just produced a groundout double.
“I didn’t know [Washington had sent Grissom] until I slipped and got up and I saw [Grissom] mid-slide,” Harris said. “They called him safe and that really fired me up. I’m just glad he was on base because he’s really aggressive and he won’t stop for anything.”
Washington’s aggressive dispatch, Grissom’s tumult and Max FrieddeGrom’s superduel ability paced the Braves, who are sitting 3 1/2 games back in the National League East after taking three of four this week from the first-place Mets. This week’s success made up for much of the damage done when the Mets took four of five games in New York earlier this month.
“This was kind of a big game because this was a two-game sweep here,” Snitker said. “This time of year, 3 1/2 games is a lot. I remember that from when people chase us. But you know what, we’ve just got to go out there and do everything we can to win tomorrow.”
With the Astros coming to town for a World Series rematch this weekend, life isn’t going to get any easier for the defending champs. But the challenge of winning a fifth straight division title would have seemed much more daunting had the Braves not found a way to win that series finale against deGrom and the Mets.
When deGrom faced the Braves on August 7, he held them hitless until Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth. Swanson got the righty again when he highlighted Thursday’s two-run third with an RBI double. The Mets tied the game with Mark Canha’s two-run homer in the fifth.
Canha’s home run snapped Fried’s 69 1/3 inning homer streak, which stood as MLB’s longest current streak. But this was one of the only mistakes made by the lefty, who scattered four hits over seven innings while pitching for the first time since suffering a concussion on Aug. 6. He was not cleared to launch until completing a few more tests. on Wednesday night.
What was Fried’s take on what could end up being the Braves’ most exciting play of the year?
“I was sitting on the back bench [of the dugout]so I didn’t see the ball go through [the infield],” Fried said. “But I heard the commotion and I hurried up to the top of the steps. I watched Wash send him in and I didn’t know where the ball was. I watched Vaughn run and he was able to make a really cool dive. It was a bang-bang play. I give him credit for running.”
Grissom ran on the pitch and was only a step away from third base when Nimmo fired the ball to cutter Pete Alonso, whose throw to the plate was just a tick late.
“That ball was hit in the right spot,” Nimmo said. “Kudos to him for putting it in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play. The only thing I wish I would have done is maybe let it rip. home plate.”
Per Statcast, Grissom took 9.58 seconds to run from first base to the plate. To put that in perspective, Ronald Acuña Jr. is the only Braves player to record faster times this year. Acuña covered this distance in 9.48 seconds on August 9 at Fenway Park and 9.51 seconds on July 4 against the Cardinals.
“The only reason I was able to do it was because Grissom gave me everything he had when he took off,” Washington said. “When he rounded second base and I saw where that ball was and saw him coming at me, I said, ‘I’m going for this.'”