The Atlanta Braves went in search of their second sweep of the season against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night to cap off what has been an amazing series. The first two games of the three game set were exciting one run affairs, and the finale was just as entertaining. Spencer Strider drew the assignment against Hunter Greene in a matchup between two of the best young fireballers in the league.
They didn't disappoint, accounting for a combined 19 strikeouts. Neither was very efficient though and after the sixth inning it became a battle of the bullpens. In a back-and-forth affair the Braves did just enough to come away with a 5-4 victory thanks to a surprisingly effective pen and some timely hitting.
The Reds opened up the scoring early, notching two runs against Strider in the first inning. Strider surrendered three hits, all of the singles, capped off by a Tyler Stephenson single to right field that plated two. Strider was able to limit the damage though, striking out Jason Volser to end the frame. In what would be a sign of things to come, the Braves answered right back, tallying their own two runs in the second. Eddie Rosario started off the inning with a double, followed by an Ozzie Albies single.
With no outs, Orlando Arcia loaded up on the bases after taking a Greene fastball to the wrist. Arcia was removed from the game, X-Rays were negative though and here's hoping the injury isn't too bad. The Braves almost botched the golden opportunity when human rally killer Marcell Ozuna and Sam Hilliard struck out, but Ronald Acuna Jr. salvaged the inning singling home two runs. Acuna was a force tonight going 3-4 with 3 RBIs and stole his MLB leading sixth bag.
The lead was short lived, as the Reds manufactured another run in the third after the Reds loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Strider almost skirted through the trouble unscathed after getting a foul out and inducing a ground ball. Unfortunatly, the Braves weren't able to turn two and a run scored. Strider struck out Vosler again to end any further threat. This was basically Strider's night in one inning. The young right hander continues to demonstrate great stuff, but until he can harness some more control and be efficient with his pitches he won't be able to make the next step.
Strider's line on the night ended in five innings with three runs allowed on four hits and two walks while striking out nine. Once again, the Braves answered the bell. After an Austin Riley lead off double, Sean Murphy hit a rocket down the left field line. Of course the always aggressive Ron Washington was sending Riley all the way, and the big man delivered beating a really good relay throw by the Reds.
That was all the scoring for a while as Green and Strider both settled in. Greene was particularly impressive striking out ten over six innings. Strider's inability to work into the sixth meant the bullpen was called into long action once again, and once again a pen that has been beleagured by injuries largely answered the call. Lucas Luetge, Kirby Yates and A.J. Minter combined for four innings of two hit, one run relief. The trio struck out five and kept the Reds offense at bay while the offense slowly went to work. The difference in the game was a solo blast by Eddie Rosario to lead off the bottom of the eighth.
Overall, it was an extremely entertaining series and the Braves continue to get it done in one run games. With tonight's victory, the Braves now lead the league in one run victories passing the Guardians. We new the Braves would have the timely hitting to win these kinds of close games, but the bullpen has been a welcomed suprise considering all of the injuries they've endured. With the victory the Braves move to 9-4 on the young season and have a chance to continue to open up their lead in the East with a weekend trip to Kansas City.