New guys propel Braves to 'really good win'

Thanks to recent acquisitions, Atlanta has first winning streak since July 10

August 5th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- , and were brought to Atlanta to do more than help the Braves finally win consecutive games again. But to satisfy their ultimate goals they did first have to realize this minor accomplishment.

Soler homered for a second straight night, Duvall drilled a go-ahead two-run homer and Pederson capped a three-run eighth with a double that guided the Braves to a 7-4 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

• Box score

“It was good for those guys to step in and be a part and help us win a game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It was a tough game, too. My God. That’s a really good win for us.”

The victory gave Atlanta its first win streak since it won a third consecutive game on July 10, which was the day Ronald Acuña Jr. tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. It was also a day that preceded the post-All-Star break acquisitions of Pederson, Soler, Duvall and catcher , who added to the success of the newcomers by delivering the go-ahead sac fly in the eighth.

“I think coming to a new team has its difficulties and awkwardness like your first day of school,” Pederson said. “So for everyone to come out on a good first note is huge. It’s been fun to watch Soler and Duvi do their thing, and especially Voter [Vogt] as well. So we’re trending in the right direction.”

With Acuña out for the rest of the year, the Braves have spent the past couple of weeks rebuilding their outfield with the additions of Pederson from the Cubs, Duvall from the Marlins and Soler from the Royals. Along the way, they also strengthened their catching position by acquiring Vogt from the D-backs.

None of these players had previously celebrated a second straight win while playing for Atlanta. This latest win snapped an 18-game streak of not recording the same result in consecutive games. This currently stands as a Major League record, but it will be erased once Atlanta and San Diego resume a suspended game in September.

“I think that was only talked about [in the clubhouse] when it became known that it broke a record,” Pederson said. “We’re a better team than that, and we’re going to start trending in the right direction.”

Trending in the right direction is the aim for the new-look Braves, who sit 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East. They have improved to .500 for the seventh time, but they are still in search of their first winning record of the season.

If Soler continues to conjure memories of the 48-homer season he had in 2019, the Braves may indeed have the firepower necessary to overcome Acuña’s absence and also cover for a bullpen that has at least shown some recent signs of improvement.

Soler was hitting .192 with 13 homers and a .658 OPS when he was acquired from the Royals. Through four games with Atlanta, he has gone 6-for-16 with a pair of home runs. His latest was a fourth-inning solo shot off J.A. Happ.

Duvall got into the act with the two-run homer he hit off Ryan Helsley in the sixth. It was his first home run for the Braves since he hit one in Game 2 of last year’s National League Wild Card Series. But it was the 23rd he has hit this season, after 22 with Miami.

“[Soler] has been great,” Duvall said. “Just putting the barrel on the ball is important for a guy like that, because any time he does that, he can do damage.”

Snitker wisely lifted Drew Smyly after four innings and allowed recently acquired reliever Richard Rodríguez to work the fifth. A seemingly rejuvenated Tyler Matzek blanked the Cards in the sixth to notch his ninth straight scoreless appearance. But Chris Martin allowed a run in the eighth, primarily because he allowed Matt Carpenter to steal third in uncontested fashion.

So Martin was certainly happy to see the eighth inning begin with consecutive singles from Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson, who are both surging over the past couple of weeks. Guillermo Heredia drew a big walk after falling behind 0-2, and Vogt followed with his sacrifice fly. Pederson created two insurance runs when his double to right led Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader to run into each other.

Over the past couple of months, the Braves lacked offense at the bottom of their lineup and on their bench. Now, they have the depth necessary to frustrate and fatigue opposing pitchers much like they did the past two seasons.

“You don’t want the pitcher to be able to take a breath and get his feet under him,” Duvall said. “You want to be going at him the whole time. The depth will do that.”