SAN FRANCISCO -- Eddie Rosario knew he had history off the crack of the bat.
Upon making contact on a first-pitch curveball in the top of the ninth inning, Rosario raised his right hand in the air before the ball touched grass. His Braves teammates began celebrating, requesting the ball upon the play’s completion. Rosario had singled, which meant he had completed the cycle.
Rosario’s feat, combined with Max Fried’s seven scoreless innings, were the keys to the Braves’ 3-0 win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park, a pair of performances that were as special as they were substantial in aiding Atlanta’s quest for the National League East title. The Braves currently have a two-game lead over the Phillies.
Rosario's afternoon was unique, given that he saw only five pitches over his four plate appearances, which is the fewest number of pitches seen by a player who hit for the cycle since at least 1990, per the Baseball-Reference database.
Rosario hit an 0-1 double in the second, a first-pitch triple in the fifth, a first-pitch homer in the seventh and a first-pitch single in the ninth.
“That’s quite a feat to do,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s a big deal for a hitter to hit for the cycle. Great accomplishment and congratulations to him.”
Rosario became the second Braves player to hit for the cycle this season, joining Freddie Freeman, who accomplished the feat on Aug. 18 against the Marlins. Trea Turner and Jake Cronenworth are the other players in MLB who have hit for the cycle in 2021.
While Rosario’s single to secure the cycle was Sunday's most exhilarating moment, Adam Duvall’s two-run home run in the seventh may have been the most pivotal. Duvall sat on a hanging slider from Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani and launched it over San Francisco’s bullpen, breaking a scoreless tie and snapping Atlanta's streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
“Being able to drive those runs in was huge, because it was a stalemate,” Duvall said. “It was 0-0. It felt like neither team could get anything going, so that was huge.”
Rosario immediately followed Duvall’s tie-breaking blast by pouncing on the first pitch from right-hander Zack Littell, just lining it over the tall right-field fence for a home run.
Sunday was a microcosm of how productive Rosario has been since coming over from Cleveland in a July 30 trade. In 19 games with Atlanta, Rosario is slashing .320/.375/.740 with almost as many home runs (five) as strikeouts (six), helping replace the production of Ronald Acuña Jr. (right ACL tear) and Marcell Ozuna (administrative leave).
Jorge Soler (.876 OPS, 10 home runs) and Duvall (.862 OPS, 14 home runs) have been stellar since coming to Atlanta. Joc Pederson has had some struggles, but he collected two hits on Sunday and provides additional pop. Acuña’s singular impact cannot be replicated, but Atlanta is getting production from various sources.
“All the guys that we’ve gotten have been unbelievably important to us,” Fried said.
Not to be lost in the shuffle of Rosario’s historic day was Fried, who made a little history of his own. Fried became the first Atlanta pitcher to record 10 consecutive quality starts since Alex Wood in 2014. Fried joins Wood, Tom Glavine, Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, Jair Jurrjens (twice) and Kris Medlen as the only Braves pitchers to have 10 or more straight quality starts this millennium.
“Max is special,” Snitker said. “He’s a guy that just continues to get mature and get more confidence."
Fried's performance was even more impressive considering it came against the Giants, who have a reputation for wearing out starting pitching. Fried became only the fourth pitcher this season to pitch at least seven scoreless against San Francisco, joining Walker Buehler, Kwang Hyun Kim and Cole Irvin. That’s good news for Atlanta, considering these two teams could feasibly meet in the postseason.
“That’s about as close to the postseason as you’re going to get,” Duvall said. “You've got two teams that are fighting, every game is huge and everybody on that field knows how important it is to win the game. You could tell. Every out was big, every run was big.”
The Braves, who have 15 regular-season games remaining, will look to preserve their NL East lead as they travel to Arizona for a four-game set against the NL-worst D-backs that begins Monday.
“We’re all very aware that [we’re] in first place,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “Any time that we go up against anybody, I feel like they’re going to give us their best shot. It’s not easy, but for us, we just have to keep fighting and grit out the tough series and tough games."