ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker’s team scored nine runs in an inning for the first time in nearly a decade and his bullpen flirted with squandering the eight-run lead with nobody on and two outs in the ninth inning of a 12-8 win over the Brewers on Friday night
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker’s team scored nine runs in an inning for the first time in nearly a decade and his bullpen flirted with squandering the eight-run lead with nobody on and two outs in the ninth inning of a 12-8 win over the Brewers on Friday night at SunTrust Park.
But after Luke Jackson gained a completely unexpected save because Jonny Venters and Wes Parsons had faltered, Snitker still recognized the value created when this offensive outburst started with Ronald Acuna Jr. turning a single into a double and ultimately a run in the first inning.
“It set the tone for us, really,” Snitker said of Acuna racing to second base after recognizing Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain was slow to get the ball back to the infield.
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One week after being moved back to the top of the lineup, Acuna is starting to once again look like the electric catalyst he was when he produced a 1.028 OPS after being moved to the leadoff spot after last season’s All-Star break.
Acuna has hit .357 (10-for-28) and constructed a .955 OPS over the seven games played since he moved back to the leadoff role. The Braves have tallied at least five runs while going 6-1 during this span. They had scored five runs in just five of the 16 games that immediately preceded the switch.
“Everyone is just clicking,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “We were putting the same thing out there and getting two runs or one run every single game. We knew we needed to switch it up because we knew we were good offensively. We just needed to switch it up a little bit.”
Venters was a pitch away, or more specifically, third-base umpire James Hoye’s checked-swing call, from recording three strikeouts during a perfect ninth. But he ended up walking Ben Gamel and being victimized by a Dansby Swanson error before faltering and heading to the clubhouse to see Jackson end the ninth-inning madness.
Jackson ended the game by striking out Hernan Perez, the Brewers utilityman who pitched a scoreless eighth by throwing nothing but 68 mph sliders. Perez even struck out Atlanta pinch-hitter Matt Joyce.
Here were some of the keys to what proved to be a very eventful night for the Braves, who tallied a season-high run total and matched a season-best 17 hits:
Impressive start: As Max Fried proved perfect in four of the six scoreless innings he threw against the Brewers’ potent lineup, he looked much like he had when he produced a 1.48 ERA through his first four starts of the season. The 25-year-old southpaw’s four-seam fastball averaged 94.6 mph (matching his season high), and he consistently commanded both his curveball and slider down in the zone.
“I felt like I was able to have a really good downhill angle today,” Fried said. “I was able to throw a lot of pitches for strikes at the bottom of the zone. When I’m doing that, I’m feeling really good.”
Fried encountered trouble when he walked Cain and had to face reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award Christian Yelich with two on and two outs in the third. After getting ahead 0-2, he fired a 97.1 mph fastball that Yelich drilled at a rate of 107.7 mph to Swanson, who fired to first to end the threat.
In the process of the Braves tallying their first nine-run inning since May 20, 2009, Fried doubled and drew a walk. He became the first Braves pitcher to reach base twice in an inning since Greg Maddux did so with a homer and a single on April 8, 1999.
“I love it,” Fried said. “Anything that makes me feel like being a baseball player beyond being a pitcher, I’ll take advantage of it.”
Power plays: Freeman fueled the offensive uprising when he began the third inning by homering for a second straight game. Swanson, Josh Donaldson and Tyler Flowers all homered in the sixth against Milwaukee reliever Corbin Burnes, who recorded just two outs before heading to the clubhouse having allowed at least three homers for the fourth time in 11 appearances, with this being the first time it wasn’t during a start.
Swanson’s three-run shot ended a 0-for-17 skid that was littered with some bad luck.
“It was good to finally hit them where they aren’t playing,” Swanson said. “That’s been the theme over the last week or so. I’ve had good at-bats with nothing to show for it. It’s nice to come through for the team like that to lengthen the lead.”
Two-strike value: Flowers began his three-hit night by teaming with Nick Markakis and Austin Riley to record three consecutive two-strike singles against Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin in the second inning. Ozzie Albies, who also tallied three hits, took advantage by delivering a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
The Braves went 8-for-18 with two strikes to improve their NL-best two-strike batting average to .207. The Astros (.215) were the only team to enter Friday with a better average.
“I like the fact the guys don’t strike out a lot,” Snitker said. “They battle through at-bats. They don’t give at-bats away. They’re on every pitch and every at-bat. That’s good to see.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.