ATLANTA -- As the Braves progress through the remainder of this stretch that pits them against arguably the National League’s top two teams, they will attempt to continue flaunting the game-changing power they gained at the Trade Deadline.
They’ll also continue to appreciate the acrobatic, game-preserving catches these acquisitions provided.
While claiming a 6-5 comeback win over the Giants on Friday night, the Braves gained a lead via Jorge Soler's homer and preserved it with Joc Pederson's impressive game-ending catch. They also received more power from Adam Duvall, who like Soler and Pederson, has helped transform this Atlanta club since being acquired since the All-Star break.
“Every person we’ve gotten has helped us win a game or two or three,” manager Brian Snitker said.
This latest victory might have actually felt like three. Soler erased a two-run deficit in the seventh with a go-ahead three-run homer, and after Braves closer Will Smith surrendered his latest homer, Pederson leapt along the right-field wall, gloved Tommy La Stella’s long drive and maintained control of the baseball as his backside hit the ground.
“I think we all thought the same thing that everyone else thought,” Soler said through an interpreter. “As soon as he hit the deck, we thought, ‘Oh maybe that ball is going to pop out or something.’ But then he raised his glove and he had the ball in there. So, it was all good.”
Once a replay review confirmed Pederson didn’t trap the ball, the Braves celebrated a much-needed victory. After bidding adieu to their nine-game winning streak with consecutive losses to the Yankees this week, erasing a late deficit against the team with MLB’s best record was certainly therapeutic.
“That was a really good game to win, especially after the two tough losses to the Yankees,” Snitker said.
Even with those consecutive losses to the Yanks, the Braves still have a 5 1/2-game lead in the NL East. This is a team that played 108 games before producing its first winning record of the season. But it’s also a team that has won 17 of 21 dating to Aug. 3, which was just four days after Soler was acquired from the Royals and Duvall was acquired from the Marlins.
Pederson was acquired from the Cubs on July 15, which was five days after Ronald Acuña Jr. suffered his season-ending knee injury.
“This team already had a ton of talent,” Pederson said. “We're just doing everything we can to help them come together as a team and win ballgames, because there's so much talent here. Winning is fun and we’re doing a good job with that right now. We’ve got a good thing going.”
The latest contributions from these acquired outfielders certainly pleased Max Fried, who surrendered a two-run homer to Buster Posey in the first and allowed the Giants to gain a 4-2 lead when La Stella laced an 0-2 curveball down the right-field line for an RBI double in the fourth.
But using the power within their enhanced lineup, the Braves kept themselves within striking distance. Duvall homered off Giants starter Kevin Gausman to begin the bottom of the second and Austin Riley added an RBI single in the third. Riley had recorded hits in six straight at-bats going back to Monday, before he grounded out in the sixth.
Pederson drew a one-out walk and scored on Ozzie Albies’ double in the seventh. This prompted the Giants to replace lefty Tony Watson with right-hander Zack Littell. Soler looked for a fastball and promptly drilled Littell’s first pitch over the right-field wall.
“I’ve just been giving my best effort to help the team win in any way that I can,” Soler said. “I’m glad things have been working out. But most of all, I’m glad that the team has been winning. That’s been fantastic.”
Since being acquired by the Braves, Pederson has hit .250 with four homers and a .758 OPS. Duvall has hit .207 with seven homers and a .770 OPS. As for Soler, he has hit .274 with six homers and a .922 OPS.
Soler’s production is even more impressive when you account for the fact he hit .192 with 13 homers and a .658 OPS in 94 games with the Royals.
With six homers in 84 at-bats for Atlanta, Soler’s 14 at-bats per home run ratio is at least closer to the 12.3 AB/HR ratio he had when hit 48 homers for the Royals in 2019.
Even without Acuña, the Braves still have tremendous power potential in their outfield mix. Duvall is two homers shy of his third 30-homer season and Pederson is just two years removed from hitting 36 homers for the Dodgers.
“[Power] is something we were lacking and the guys we added have made an immediate impact,” Snitker said. “All of them.”