In a clash of first-place teams in Atlanta, the Red Sox completed the three-game sweep of the Braves with a 9-8 win (box score). You can tell by the lofty run totals and thin margin that this was an exciting game, but that doesn't fully capture the dimensions of what may have been the wildest game of the 2018 season.
First, 20-year-old Braves phenom Ronald Acuna got things started with his eighth leadoff homer of the season:
Like the man says, that's a Braves record for leadoff home runs in a season. The thing, though, is that Acuna has hit those eight leadoff homers in just 44 starts as the leadoff hitter. Overall, he's got 24 home runs in 88 games, and he's batting .289/.359/.570 on the season.
Acuna's homer was part of an early Braves onslaught that saw them put a pair of runs on the board against Boston starter Hector Velasquez and then a five-spot on Drew Pomeranz, who recorded only one out in relief of Velasquez. Meantime, Mike Foltynewicz was mostly putting up zeroes for the hosts.
Going into the eighth inning, the Braves led 7-1 and, per win expectancy, had a 99.2 percent chance of winning the game. 99.2! Then, though, the Boston offense happened:
And in case you prefer the blow-by-blow:
- C. Vazquez: Foul, Vazquez singled to right center
- T. Lin: Foul, Lin singled to left, Vazquez to second
- J. Bradley: Strike looking, Bradley singled to right, Vazquez to third, Lin to second
- B. Swihart: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Swihart doubled to deep right center, Vazquez and Lin scored, Bradley to third
- Jonny Venters relieved Dan Winkler
- A. Benintendi: Strike swinging, Strike swinging, Benintendi singled to left, Bradley scored, Swihart to third
- Steve Pearce hit for Mitch Moreland
- S. Pearce: Ball, Pickoff attempt to first, Ball, Strike looking, Pearce hit sacrifice fly to left, Swihart scored
- B. Phillips: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Pickoff attempt, Foul, Ball, Phillips safe at first on 3rd baseman Camargo throwing error, Benintendi to third, Phillips to second
- Brad Brach relieved Jonny Venters
- Ian Kinsler hit for Rafael Devers
- I. Kinsler: Ball, Kinsler singled to left, Benintendi and Phillips scored
- Eduardo Nunez hit for Bobby Poyner
- E. Nunez: Pickoff attempt, Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Ball, Nunez flied out to center
- C. Vazquez: Vazquez singled to center, Kinsler to third
- Xander Bogaerts hit for Tzu-Wei Lin
- Freddie Freeman at first base
- A.J. Minter pitching
- X. Bogaerts: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Bogaerts walked, Vazquez to second
- Mookie Betts hit for Jackie Bradley
- M. Betts: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Strike looking, Betts struck out looking
- Middle of the 8th (6 Runs, 7 Hits, 1 Error)
That, folks, is a tie game. Dan Winkler, your thoughts?
Winkler gave up four runs without recording an out and saw his ERA for the season jump from 2.40 to 3.04. The frustration is understandable.
The Braves, though, untied in the home half of the eighth thanks to a Freddie Freeman home run. So despite that eighth-inning core reactor meltdown, the Braves were back to an 84.1 percent chance of winning the game. When the Red Sox in the top of the ninth made two outs around an Andrew Benintendi single, the Braves pushed their chances of triumph up to 92 percent. Given that 37-year-old Brandon Phillips was at the plate for Boston and was playing in his first big-league game since last season, perhaps even those odds were overselling the Sox's chances.
But then lightning struck:
Dat is Phillips' first home run since Sept. 26 of last year, and that's scrip-flipper of a blast. That also makes Phillips (a Georgia native and former Brave) the first ever to hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later in his Red Sox debut.
Closer Craig Kimbrel made the lead hold in the bottom of the ninth, and that means this happened:
Make that 487-1. That's now 97 wins on the season for Boston, who continues to lead the AL East by a wide margin and continues to have an equally firm grip on the top overall playoff seed. The Braves, though, frittered away a potentially important one. With this crushing loss, the Braves' lead over the Phillies in the NL East is down to 2 1/2 games. As well, the Phillies have an easier remaining schedule in terms of opponents' average winning percentage. They also get seven more head-to-head games against the Braves, including the last three of the regular season in Philly.
Yep, if the Braves wind up blowing their division lead, then this game is going to remembered for a long time.