Olson slams the Allegheny as Braves romp to sweep

August 24th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- added to his homer total, dominated the Pirates’ lineup and crushed a grand slam into the water beyond PNC Park’s walls. Everything seemed to go right for the red-hot Braves as they rolled to a 14-2 win over the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon.

There were plenty of offensive standouts as four Braves tallied at least two hits, but Olson supplied the day’s highlight when his towering grand slam traveled a Statcast-projected 420 feet past right field and bounced into the Allegheny River. The seven-year veteran had never played in Pittsburgh before this week, so he wasn’t thinking about the water as the ball left the yard.

“I’m not exactly sure how it works out there,” said Olson, who certainly understands the mechanics of the home run trot, as he now finds himself three long balls away from his third 30-homer season.

Olson became the 45th different player, but the first Brave, to homer into the water in Pittsburgh. The first baseman’s fifth career grand slam -- and first since joining Atlanta -- just added to the support provided to Wright, whose 16 wins this season put him in a tie with Justin Verlander and Tony Gonsolin for the MLB lead.

Wright was understandably in a good mood after allowing just two hits while totaling 72 pitches over seven scoreless innings. He was lobbying for the chance to notch his first complete game, too, but as Olson’s slam touched down to give Atlanta a 13-0 lead, the 26-year-old hurler knew his day was done.

“If it was a quick [inning], I wanted to go back out,” Wright said. “I’ve never finished a game before in the big leagues. So I would have loved to have gotten that. But runs are cool too, especially grand slams.”

With the three-game series sweep, the Braves finished 7-0 this season against the Pirates and moved within 1 1/2 games of the idle first-place Mets in the National League East. This marks the first time they have swept a season series consisting of more than three games since they went 6-0 against the Rockies in 2003.

Making this particular series sweep more impressive was the fact that the Braves didn’t experience a letdown after going 5-2 during last week’s homestand against the Mets and Astros. Whether playing a first-place or a last-place team, the defending World Series champs have found success of late. Atlanta has won 14 of its past 16 games, with the rotation posting a 2.81 ERA during this span.

Wright has allowed just two runs over the 13 innings (two starts) he has completed since being given three days of extra rest after dealing with right arm fatigue during his Aug. 10 outing in Boston. He blanked the Pirates on Wednesday with the help of some good fortune.

Pirates rookie shortstop Oneil Cruz drilled a 122.4 mph liner off the top of the right-field wall with a runner on first in the third inning. It stands as the hardest-hit ball recorded by Statcast (since 2015). But it resulted in just a harmless two-out single.

“It’s probably good it hit a wall because it might have hurt somebody if it had been hit a little higher,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Five innings later, Olson sent his slam high above that same wall amid the Braves’ seven-run frame. The first baseman also tallied two doubles, including one just ahead of Contreras’ two-run homer in the second inning. Contreras has tallied just 242 at-bats, but his 17 homers rank third on the team, trailing only Austin Riley and Olson.

Riley leads the NL with 67 extra-base hits and Olson sits right behind him with 66. Both are on pace to tally more than 80 extra-base hits this year. Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Eddie Mathews, Freddie Freeman and Tommy Holmes are the only players in franchise history to reach this total. But none have ever done so in the same season.

“I don’t think it’s been the most consistent year by any means,” Olson said. “You’re finding a way to get extra-base hits. You’ve got to check-swing a couple out there every once in a while. But seriously, it’s good. There’s always room for improvement, but you take your victories.”