Julio Teheran towed the rubber for the Braves against Ryne Stanek of the Rays to open up their two-game series on Tuesday night. Stanek only went one-inning as the “opener”, an odd concept where the Rays start one of their relievers for an inning or two. Yonny Chirinos would pitch the next five frames for Tampa Bay.
Teheran is currently auditioning for a spot to start in October, and this one got off to a shaky start. The Rays struck first in the top of the second after a little bit of small ball from the American League squad. They scored again in the third on a sacrifice fly, but Teheran would settle in and allow the Braves bats to go to work.
Inciarte began the scoring for the Braves in the bottom of the third with a single, his second of four hits on the night that included a home-run. Julio would answer with shutout innings in the fourth and fifth before the Braves put a crooked number on the board. Back-to-back hits by Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson started it off. Both of those guys had multiple hits on the night, as Albies broke out of his slump with three hits and Swanson continued his tear adding two more. The key play in the inning though was an error on a bunt off the bat of Julio Teheran. It set up the Braves for a game-changing opportunity, and Nick Markakis made sure it was not wasted with a two-run double giving the Braves a 5-2 lead.
Teheran was pitches away from putting together another quality start. Unfortunately, his last batter of the night put a damper on what was a productive outing from the veteran. With two outs and two strikes on Brandon Lowe in the sixth, Teheran hung a slider, and Lowe barely cleared the center field fence for his first career home-run. Biddle would come into finish the inning, but that was just the start of the shenanigans.
After a couple of scoreless innings, Jonny Venters entered the game in the eighth against his former team. The reunion did not go as planned. The Rays led off the inning with a seeing-eye single, once again used some small ball by bunting the runner over and drove him in with a single up the middle. Venters was unable to complete the inning, allowing his first run as a Brave.
Luckily, it was one of those nights for the Braves offense. The dreaded leadoff walk in the bottom half of the eighth got the party started for Atlanta. Albies followed with a double, his third hit of the game and his first extra-base hit since August 12th against Milwaukee. A heads-up play by Duvall on a ground ball with the infield in gave the Braves a 6-5 lead, and then Tyler Flowers stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter. Chaz Roe delivered a hanging slider on the third pitch of the at-bat, and Flowers did not miss it, clobbering a home-run into the Tampa Bay bullpen.
Inciarte would add to the lead with a solo home run later in the inning. A.J. Minter did not exactly make the ninth look easy but closed out the game on a ground ball to short with the bases loaded. The 9-5 victory puts the Braves at 74-57 on the year and most importantly stretches their lead in the NL East. The Phillies lost a heartbreaker against the Nationals, which saw them allow three ninth-inning runs. Atlanta now leads the NL East by 4.5 games and has a magic number of 27 games.