Welcome back! Rosario sets up Murphy's heroics in return to Braves

July 9th, 2024

PHOENIX -- rejoined some of his closest friends and immediately found himself smiling like he did throughout the 2021 postseason.

“I’m so happy to be here to see my teammates and my friends,” Rosario said. “I feel great. I play to win. I never get down. For example, today. One more pitch and the game is probably over. I got a base hit and Murphy does a great job.”

Rosario’s two-out single in the ninth inning Monday gave a chance to hit a game-tying two-run homer off a struggling Paul Sewald. That game-extending hit led the Braves to a 5-4, 11-inning win courtesy of Marcell Ozuna’s game-winning sacrifice fly.

“We were kind of lying dead in the weeds there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Instead of answering questions about another subpar offensive performance or the inability to extend the momentum created by this past weekend’s series win against the Phillies, the Braves were celebrating an exciting victory.

“Hopefully that one leads to some more momentum going forward,” Murphy said. “I think we all feel really good about that one.”

Bryce Elder pitched effectively through the first five innings. Austin Riley homered for the ninth time in the past 23 games. Matt Olson made a game-saving defensive play. Raisel Iglesias provided two scoreless innings while recording six outs in a game for the first time since 2021. Murphy delivered the crushing blow against Sewald, who has now blown three straight save opportunities.

And for the first time since April 17, the Braves won a game during which they allowed four-plus runs. They had lost 28 straight games when surrendering at least four runs.

All of this happened as Rosario enjoyed his first day back with the team that had employed him for the previous 2 1/2 years. It seemed like only a matter of time before he rejoined the Braves after being released by the Nationals last week. He signed a Minor League deal on Friday, spent the weekend with Triple-A Gwinnett and rejoined Atlanta’s roster to play a key role in a big win.

“That’s awesome in his first day to come up and get a big hit to bring the tying run to the plate,” Snitker said. “That’s a good start for him.”

How long Rosario sticks with the Braves is up to him. He’ll always be remembered for winning the National League Championship Series MVP en route to helping the Braves win the 2021 World Series. He battled vision issues the following year and then produced a .755 OPS while hitting 20 homers for Atlanta last year.

Rosario has been serenaded by Braves fans with chants of “Eddie” over the past few years. But his time back with Atlanta won’t last long if he struggles like he did while hitting .183 with a .555 OPS over 235 plate appearances for the Nationals. He will spend the next couple weeks auditioning and giving Atlanta a better chance to get a feel for where its outfield needs stand before the July 30 Trade Deadline.

Rosario didn’t sign with the Nationals until March 6. So, missing a couple weeks of Spring Training might have influenced his struggles. But he also might have missed the presence of Marcell Ozuna, Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia and his Braves teammates who pushed him during previous seasons.

“To be a member of this organization is a privilege,” Rosario said. “So, I feel very grateful for this opportunity I’ve been given. You’re looking at a Brave.”

Rosario further endeared himself to Braves fans when he went above the strike zone to line a 1-2 fastball to right field with two outs in the ninth inning on Monday. Murphy followed by drilling a Statcast-projected 431-foot homer over the right-center-field wall.

“Eddie can hit just about any pitch and he knows it,” Murphy said. “He’s not afraid to go up there and swing. He’s dangerous wherever you throw it.”

There’s nothing conventional about Rosario’s offensive or defensive approach. He has ranked as one of the least productive players in the game this year. But it certainly allows the Braves to take a chance on him again.

The Guardians were willing to trade Rosario just to remove approximately $2.8 million from their 2021 payroll. The outfielder became an Atlanta icon a couple months later. There’s no guarantee he’ll create the same magic this year. But there’s no also no guarantee that he won’t.

“My friends and my brothers are here,” Rosario said.