'You know what we do in extra innings': Braves' stellar 'D' sets up walk-off

April 25th, 2024

ATLANTA -- Shortstop created a defensive gem that helped stop the bleeding in the ninth inning. strengthened his Gold Glove hopes one inning later, when he made a run-saving stop that helped the Braves claim a 4-3 win over the Marlins in 10 innings on Wednesday night at Truist Park.

“If you look back, you’ll see I was probably the most excited person on the field when he made that play,” Arcia said through an interpreter. “I went right up to him just to congratulate him on that play. It was a good day today.”

Arcia wasn’t the only Braves player who was overjoyed when Riley made a great play on Christian Bethancourt’s sharp grounder with a runner on third and one out in the 10th. The Braves' third baseman lunged to his left, made the stop, spun on his knee and fired a perfect throw to Travis d’Arnaud, who tagged Nick Gordon a couple feet in front of home plate.

“That’s why [Riley] should have gold on the top of his glove, because that’s the kind of player he is,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Riley’s play was just one of the many thrilling moments Atlanta experienced as it swept Miami, winning for the 10th time in its past 12 games and improving its MLB-best winning percentage to .739 (17-6).

“We’re a complete team,” A.J. Minter said. “I don’t feel like there are any weak spots on this team. Hopefully, we can stay healthy and just keep this thing going.”

It looked like Minter was going to get the night off. Reynaldo López allowed one run over seven innings, and the Braves handed closer Raisel Iglesias a 3-1 lead to begin the ninth. Iglesias had successfully converted each of his seven save opportunities entering this game. But this wasn’t his night.

The Marlins recorded three straight singles before Josh Bell’s bouncer hit off first baseman Matt Olson’s chest and bounced out of play into the camera well. Two runs scored on the play to tie the game.

Jesús Sánchez followed with an excuse-me swing that produced a dribbler to the right of the mound. Iglesias made a strong throw to first to record the first out of the inning.

“That’s a helluva play,” Snitker said. “Oh my God. He did an unbelievable job of keeping that inning in order the way it started.”

Iglesias had some help from Arcia, who was playing in on the grass when he fielded Tim Anderson’s 80.9 mph grounder. The veteran shortstop then made an 83.8 mph throw to catcher Chadwick Tromp, who tagged Jazz Chisholm Jr. at home to keep the game tied.

“[Arcia] is an All-Star guy,” Tromp said. “I’m not surprised. It was a really good play for us to help Iggy get out of that jam. It kept the game tied, and you know what we do in extra innings.”

The Braves improved to 3-0 in extra innings this season when Harris began the bottom of the 10th with his walk-off double to the left-center-field gap. Automatic runner Ronald Acuña Jr. got a good read on the ball and was leaning toward third base when it landed between Chisholm and Gordon.

Harris’ game-winner and the defensive contributions preserved what was another great start by López, who completed seven innings for the first time since Sept. 28, 2019. That was the last outing of his most recent full season as a starter. He thrived as a reliever the past couple of years, but the Braves opted to sign him this offseason with the intention of having him begin the year in the rotation.

López has allowed just two runs through his first four starts (25 innings) of the season. He joins Boston’s Kutter Crawford as the only MLB pitchers who have allowed two earned runs or fewer over at least 25 innings this year.

It was another satisfying night for the right-hander. But even he was talking about the team’s defense after this thrilling win.

“You can go out there whenever it’s your start and just throw your pitches knowing you have that kind of defense behind you,” López said through an interpreter. “Having the confidence and knowledge these guys are behind you making plays helps you go out there and make your pitches.”