Braves benefit from blunder in win over Phils

Adrianza provides spark with pinch-hit double, scores decisive run in 7th

April 11th, 2021

ATLANTA -- With the presence of Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves know they again have one of baseball’s top lineups. But a little more than a week into the season, it appears they may also have a very capable bench.

Long after Freeman and Acuña created early excitement at Truist Park on Saturday night, Ehire Adrianza drilled a pinch-hit double and scored on a Phillies defensive blunder in the seventh inning that gave the Braves a 5-4 win.

“[Braves manager Brian Snitker] has been pushing the right buttons,” Freeman said. “They’re all hot for us right now. We have confidence in every single one that goes up there. We wouldn’t have four wins without our pinch-hitters right now.”

A little more than a month ago, most Braves fans were unfamiliar with Adrianza. But the 31-year-old utility player hit .400 during Spring Training, and like his former Giants teammate Pablo Sandoval, Adrianza earned a roster spot after going to camp as a non-roster invitee.

Adrianza missed most of the first week of the season because he was placed on the injured list after traveling to take his citizenship test. He passed all COVID-19 protocols and was activated a few hours before hitting a three-run homer in Friday's win.

Needless to say, the past few weeks have been rewarding for Adrianza, who averaged only 197 at-bats per year over the past four seasons with the Twins.

“It was pretty tough for me being a non-roster invite for the first time in my career,” Adrianza said. “I told my agent and I told my dad, I was going to play Spring Training like it’s my season to get on the roster. Thank God, they gave me the opportunity. I got to take advantage every single day.”

Adrianza further endeared himself to Braves fans when he opened Saturday’s seventh inning with a double. After he advanced to third on an Acuña single, Adrianza scored the decisive run on a Freeman chopper back to the mound.

“It’s one of those things where it’s perfectly placed where the ball’s hit,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said, “and it cost us.”

Phillies reliever José Alvarado fielded Freeman’s comebacker and turned to throw to second, appearing to forget the infield was playing in on the grass. With nobody to throw to, Alvarado turned and threw too late to retire Adrianza at the plate.

“I talked with [third-base coach] Ron Washington, and he told me, 'Any ground ball, we have to score to avoid the double play,'" Adrianza said. "When he got the ball, I thought he was going to go to second.  That’s why I didn’t slide. But thank God I scored the run.”

Since losing four straight games to begin this season, the Braves have won four straight with the help of a seemingly awakened offense. Their lowest scoring output over the past four games was two runs, which Sandoval provided via a seventh-inning homer in a 2-0 win over the Nationals on Wednesday.

Braves starter Ian Anderson allowed a pair of first-inning runs. But Acuña doubled to open the bottom of the inning, starting a three-run rally that was highlighted by Freeman's two-run homer off Zach Eflin.

Freeman has homered three times in his past 17 at-bats, and Acuña is 11-for-20 with four doubles and three homers over the past five games. Their MVP-caliber production is expected. If Adrianza extends the success he’s had going back to Spring Training, then the Braves' offense should be even better than expected.

“He’s been incredible,” Anderson said. “Coming into spring and making the team doing as well as he did down there, I don’t know if he’s taking any advice from Sandoval, but what those two guys have been able to do coming off the bench just makes us that much deeper as a team.”