Braves infield makes history on Albies' HR

Anderson pitches three-plus innings as Braves drop second straight to Rockies

September 5th, 2021

DENVER -- Until Saturday night, only one team in Major League history had each of its starting infielders hit 25 or more home runs in the same season. That was the 2008 Marlins, for whom Mike Jacobs (32), Dan Uggla (32), Hanley Ramirez (33) and Jorge Cantu (29) accomplished the feat.

That group has company after Ozzie Albies launched his career-high 25th home run of the season in the Braves’ 7-6 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. The solo homer into Atlanta’s bullpen beyond the right-center-field wall in the third inning cemented the 2021 Braves in the history books.

Albies joined Freddie Freeman (28 homers), Austin Riley (28) and Dansby Swanson (26) in the 25-homer club. Although he’s out for the season due to injury, Ronald Acuña Jr. is the Braves’ fifth hitter with more than 20 homers (24). Adam Duvall has 30 homers on the season, but 22 of those came with the Marlins. Jorge Soler has 22, of which 13 came with the Royals.

Manager Brian Snitker didn’t realize that 25 was the magic number to make history, adding postgame that he thinks there’s more coming.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Snitker said. “I was kinda more thinking that this was gonna be the first infield to have four guys hit 30. I thought that was what they were shooting for.”

It just might be. Albies has been swinging a hot bat since missing two games with a knee injury -- in his two games back, he’s 3-for-9 with a pair of homers, and with a few more feet on a fly ball Friday, that would have been 4-for-9 with three homers.

Meanwhile, Riley has been phenomenal since the All-Star break, entering Saturday with a .360/.410/.657 slash line in the second half to go along with 14 homers. Though he’s cooled off during the current road trip, Freeman entered Saturday hitting .329/.391/.526 with nine homers since the break. Swanson has been slumping since mid-August, but four homers over the season’s final month certainly isn’t out of the question.

The home run milestone was as good as it would get Saturday for the Braves, who dropped their second straight to Colorado and their eighth in their last 11 games following a nine-game win streak. Ian Anderson struggled in his second start off the injured list, giving up a pair of homers and four runs overall in three-plus innings of work. He walked four and didn’t strike out a batter for the second consecutive outing -- prior to that, he had never made a start without a single strikeout.

Anderson said the poor performance wasn’t a result of any physical issues.

“No, I feel fine,” said the 23-year-old right-hander . “I just didn’t have it tonight. It was frustrating. I had a chance to go out there and pitch a good ballgame and it would’ve been a big win for us. In my mind, that was probably the worst start of my career. I just have to flush it and move on.”

Anderson will be key down the stretch for the Braves, who, thanks to the Phillies’ loss to the Marlins in Miami, remain two games up on Philadelphia in the NL East. If he is able to even somewhat replicate what he did for Atlanta after being called up late last season, when he posted a 1.95 ERA in six starts, it would be a huge boost to a starting rotation that is solid at the top with Charlie Morton and Max Fried, but inconsistent beyond that.

“He just couldn’t get a feel for anything tonight,” said Snitker of Anderson. “His changeup was not there, his fastball command [was lacking], it was just a fight the entire time. I don’t know if it’s Coors Field or if he couldn’t feel the ball good, dry air, all that kind of stuff, but it was a fight from the get-go.”

Beyond Albies’ historic homer, an RBI double from Duvall in the first inning, a game-tying RBI single by Jorge Soler in the fifth, an eighth-inning sacrifice fly by Swanson and a pinch-hit solo homer in the ninth by Travis d’Arnaud comprised the scoring for Atlanta.

But once again, it wasn’t enough to get a victory. For the fifth straight game and the 48th time in 2021, the Braves played a one-run game. Of the last five, they’ve lost four, and are 22-26 in those games on the season.

Come October, losing four out of five, even by a single run each time, equals elimination.

“You weather these storms,” Snitker said. “You fight through them. You keep working. We’re putting ourselves in a position, and it can change just like that, where all of a sudden you’re getting the big hit or making the big pitch.”