Almost throughout the season, the bullpen was the not so secret weapon of the Atlanta Braves. It came up huge Sunday night in the most critical game of the season, when a cadre of Atlanta relievers fired 4. 2⁄3 innings of scoreless ball, giving Atlanta a home sweep of the Mets and a very good chance they’ll secure a first-round final bye.
The bats also played a key role in this one. Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson both homered, each doing so for the third time (and in the third game) of the series. Travis d’Arnaud had the pivotal at-bat of the game, rolling a grounder up the middle with the bases loaded to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. The scoring mostly settled down after that, and the game ended at a brisk pace with Atlanta winning.
Unlike the other two games of that series, the Braves actually got on the board first against Chris Bassitt, because Dansby Swanson didn’t wait around for a later plate appearance before leaving the building:
That home run came a frame after Charlie Morton smothered a two-out rally by striking out Eduardo Escobar on four straight curveballs. Morton was nowhere near as lucky in the second or much of the rest of the game, though: Daniel Vogelbach got a 2-0 cutter to lead off the top of the next half-inning and smashed it into right-center to tie the game. . Morton later allowed a pair of singles, but ground Francisco Lindor down into a strikeout for the third out.
After an initial walk went nowhere against Bassitt in the bottom of the second, the Braves stuck with Morton despite a tough inning. For the second straight frame, a left-handed hitter (Morton’s kryptonite this year) exploded on Morton, this time in the form of Jeff McNeil. The next two batters both singled, and alarm bells must have gone off somewhere…but not in the Braves’ dugout. Vogelbach was back up, but Morton was left in the game to allow a weak roller that got past Matt Olson but probably shouldn’t have. That put runners on the corners and made it a 3-1 Mets lead. Morton avoided further damage with a popout, a strikeout, and then a groundout, but the Braves had their work cut out for them.
Fortunately, they’ve been very good at getting the job done this series, and Chris Bassitt has struggled even worse than Morton. Orlando Arcia and Ronald Acuña Jr. started the rally with an opposite-field groundout single and an eight-pitch walk, respectively. Swanson then threw out yet another ball from Bassitt, but this one died in center, allowing both runners to advance. Bassitt then plunked Austin Riley, and his command continued to deteriorate as he then walked Olson to force in a run. Up came Travis d’Arnaud, who hung tough for seven pitches despite starting 0-2, before getting lucky on a weak grounder nowhere near any Mets infielders that turned the game around:
That was it for Bassitt, and for the rally, when Trevor May came on and got Marcell Ozuna to show up.
Despite facing the lineup a third time for the fourth, Morton raised some eyebrows and then moderated some bile ducts by having a 1-2-3 frame. The Braves also went down in order against May. After Morton allowed a single to Escobar in the fifth, however, the Braves decided it at that enough point was enough, lifting him before facing Vogelbach a third time. Morton finished the game with 4 1⁄3 innings, a 5/1 K/BB ratio, and two more long balls allowed. It wasn’t a good start, but it was pretty good tonight.
After Morton left, well, the vaunted and seemingly despondent Atlanta bullpen went to work. Dylan Lee was first out of the slide and easily got two outs, and then two more in the top of the sixth. When he walked Brandon Nimmo with two outs, he was lifted for Collin McHugh, who struck out Lindor on three pitches to send the game on.
Seth Lugo came in and worked a scoreless fifth, but Matt Olson greeted him with another dinger in the sixth:
That actually limited the scoring, although we didn’t know it at the time. After that, it was all Braves bullpen, all the way. Raisel Iglesias, working a third game in a row, allowed a leadoff single to McNeil but nothing else. AJ Minter also allowed a leadoff single in the eighth, but retired it on a double play ball to end the inning. Kenley Jansen, another three-day-in-a-row-er, had a mind-bogglingly easy ninth inning, needing just seven pitches to end the game. Nimmo grounded out to Swanson, Lindor hit a weak bouncer to Olson at first, and McNeil hit a hard liner, but straight to Acuña, who caught it on the track and emphatically pumped his fist to underscore the Mets’ dominance of the Braves. in this series.
With a two-game lead in the division and the head-to-head tie in tow, the Braves will clinch the NL East and a first-round bye with either one win, or a Mets loss to the Nationals. This brown crew will head down to Miami for their final three games, where they will look to put an exclamation point on a fantastic season before hopefully enjoying some well-deserved rest.
That was a phenomenal game in a phenomenal series in a phenomenal season. This team is, quite simply, amazing.