Julio Teheran just did not have it. Kicking off the final homestand at Turner Field against the Phillies, he surrendered a first inning grand slam to Ryan Howard (yes, he of the .192 batting average this year, who always finds a way to kill the Braves), and then allowed two doubles and two singles in the second inning for two more Phillie runs. With the run support (or lack thereof) that Teheran has gotten this year, a 6-0 deficit after two innings pretty much means you can turn the game off, confident in the outcome.
On the other side of the diamond, Jerad Eickhoff was doing his best to make that outcome a reality. He retired the first 11 batters he faced, and seemed to be rolling merrily along. Freddie Freeman finally got to him in the 4th inning with a solo home run to extend his hitting streak to 29 games, the longest in the majors this season. I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again: this team does not deserve him. He’s on such a roll right now the end of the season will be quite inconvenient for his personal stats (although with a new baby at home, I’m sure he’ll welcome the family time).
Mother Nature then stepped in and handed the Braves a great favor—a nearly two-hour rain delay that knocked both starting pitchers out and breathed new life into the home nine. When the teams returned to the field, the Braves bullpen dominated and did not allow a run over the last five innings. Their efforts gave the team the chance to make a most improbable comeback.
In the 6th inning, Inciarte and Freeman both drew walks, and with two outs, Markakis singled to knock Inciarte in. Tyler Flowers followed with a three-tun home run, a no-doubter to center field, to get the Braves to within one run of their foes.
Following an uneventful 7th inning, the Braves offense kicked it into gear again. Freeman led off the 8th with his second hit of the game, and moved to third when Flowers doubled with one out. Daniel Castro drew an intentional walk to load the bases, and then Dansby Swanson struck out for the second out and it looked like the Phillies might wiggle out of the jam. Mallex Smith, making his first start since his return from the DL, ensured that would not be the case and came through with a base hit to tie the game on Freeman’s third run scored on the evening.
Bonifacio then got in on the fun with an infield hit to short to push across go-ahead run, and suddenly a most improbable comeback was complete. Jim Johnson came in and closed out the game with a perfect 9th, and the Braves secured their eighth win over their last nine games, a 7-6 victory over the Phillies.
Who is this team, and what have they done to the real 2016 Braves?
Well, that’s a wrap for me for the 2016 season. I was convinced after the first inning I was only going to have a tale of woe to relate for the Braves final Tuesday game, but instead they gave me gold. It’s been real and it’s been fun, but I can’t say the 2016 season has been real fun. Let’s do it all over again next year, only maybe with a few more Ws and a lot fewer Ls. If the Braves can pick up next season where they are leaving off this season, that could actually become reality. What fun a winning season would be!