The Braves dropped another one Monday, losing 6-4 at home versus the Phillies, but like so often during these exhibition games, the insignificance of the final score was greatly overshadowed by several individual performances.
Oh, and it appears Cristian Pache has gotten hot at the plate.
Coming into Monday’s 6:05 p.m. (EST) matchup with Philadelphia, the Braves’ top prospect was hitting a paltry .154 (.585 OPS), having tallied just 2 hits in 13 tries; though by the time he headed to the showers after the game, roughly 3 hours later, Pache was sporting a .313 AVG (.833 OPS) after turning in a 3-for-3 performance (three singles) with the bat on Monday, while also stealing two bases.
Granted, it’s just one game, but you can’t help but remember Pache’s spring-fueled breakout in 2019 when he hit .359 with 7 extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 24 games last Spring Training. When it comes to the talented Pache, we’ve seen that it doesn’t take the 21-year-old long to get scorching hot with the bat. And for those pushing for a Pache debut this coming season, so far promoting the toolsy center fielder sooner rather than later seems like a very reasonable argument. Incumbent Ender Inciarte hasn’t done much of anything during his small-sample of playing-time and considering his struggles in 2019’s regular-season, there’s not a lot of optimism that he will.
2020 Spring Training
- Pache: 7 G, .313 AVG, .833 OPS, HR, 4 RBI
- Inciarte: 6 G, .182 AVG, .468 OPS, RBI
It would be a bit unreasonable to make such a declaration after just 15 or so Spring Training at-bats, but if Pache winds up finishing head and shoulders above Inciarte (as he currently appears to be thus far)… why wait?
Other notes from Monday
Before Monday’s game I wrote about Johan Camargo and Austin Riley’s current competition for the Braves’ third base job… and it’s almost as if they both read it (I’m totally kidding).
Johan Camargo = still raking
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) March 2, 2020
Each of them doubled in Monday’s game, while Camargo added a single and finished 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, pushing his average this Spring to .400 (1.100 OPS). Riley’s also hitting a healthy .313.
Camargo started off the Braves’ scoring in the opening inning against the Phillies’ Zach Eflin, belting a line-drive double to center field, scoring Charlie Culberson. Nick Markakis pushed across a run with a sac-fly, and Riley’s double, scoring Freddie Freeman, gave the Braves a 3-0 advantage in the first. They actually held a 4-0 lead until the final four frames, when Philadelphia scored a run apiece in the sixth and seventh, followed by four runs in the ninth.
However, Newcomb’s outing was sharp while it lasted. The lefty was allowed three innings this time around (his second start of Spring Training), giving up 2 hits and no runs while striking out three. Newcomb still has yet to walk a batter, which is a fantastic sign when considering his past struggles with free passes. He, Kyle Wright and Felix Hernandez are all making this race to fill the Braves’ final two rotation spots very interesting.
Touki Toussaint was the first of six pitchers out of the Braves’ bullpen on Monday. He allowed a run on a ground-out in the sixth but all-in-all pitched decent, striking out four and walking two. Luke Jackson made his Spring debut by striking out three of the four batters he faced in the eighth inning, but Shane Greene surrendered the Braves lead in the ninth, allowing four runs off three hits, including former Brave Christian Bethancourt’s second home run of the game (he also homered off Will Smith earlier). Tucker Davidson cleaned it up and got the Braves’ final out after allowing a hit.
Overall, the Braves played well on Monday, save for some shoddy relief work from Greene, who has had a rough Spring thus far (0-2, 16.88 ERA). A lot of different players got in on the action, including Freddie Freeman who started the game and made two plate appearances (he walked and grounded out, before being replaced by Peter O’Brien). According to David O’Brien at The Athletic, the star first baseman is expected to get back to playing every day starting this Friday. Drew Waters replaced Nick Markakis in right field and received two at-bats, going 1-for-2 and notching his third stolen base of the Spring. The Braves’ second-best prospect is hitting just .200 overall thus far.
Atlanta outhit Philadelphia 11-9 but committed two errors to the Phillies zero (Culberson and Riley both had fielding blunders). And with so many different pitchers making appearances each and every day — the Braves used seven arms on Monday — there’s bound to be one that doesn’t have his best stuff. Either way, it’s good to see strong performances from key players so far, and also excellent to see Freeman back in the lineup.
Next up: On Tuesday, the Rays and Braves will meet again, though this time in Northport. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. (EST) with Felix Hernandez expected to make his third start of the Spring (1-0, 1.93 ERA) while opposing Tampa Bay’s lefty Josh Flemming (1-0, 6.00 ERA). Once again, Tuesday’s matchup will not be televised, though you can listen to the game on the radio (1340 AM / 103.7 FM); however, Wednesday’s game versus the Pirates will air on Pittsburgh’s Sportsnet (which means it’s most likely available on MLB.TV for out-of-market viewers). The Braves will be off on Thursday.