Braves: Darius Vines shows tremendous poise in first start

MLB: SEP 09 Pirates at Braves

It’s only April, and the Braves already have a gaping hole in their rotation with Spencer Strider out of the season. They’ll need to fill it eventually, but for now, the only options they have are the internal ones. No team is going to make a significant trade this early in the season.

The first time around, it was Allan Winans getting a start in Spencer Strider’s place, and he struggled to the tune of seven runs over five innings. Soon after that outing against the Mets, he was optioned to Gwinnett, and Darius Vines was called up to the Braves in his place, who got the pleasure of facing the vaunted Astros lineup in his 2024 debut.

Houston may have entered Monday in last place in the AL West with a 6-11 record, but make no mistake, this remains one of the best offenses in baseball. They rank top five in just about every offensive category — batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and home runs. This was a tall task for Darius Vines, and it began shakily in the first inning.

After a double play retired the first two batters of the inning, a couple of singles and a walk led to the first run of the game. However, Vines didn’t flinch, forcing Chas McCormick to fly out and end the inning.

From there, it was relatively smooth sailing for the 25-year-old right-hander. He pitched around a two-out double in the second inning and then set down the Astros in order in the third and fourth. With the Braves leading 2-1, Vines had an opportunity to become the pitcher of record if he could complete the fifth, but Brian Snitker wisely turned to his bullpen with the left-handed Yordan Alvarez set to step in the box for the third time of the night and a runner on first with two outs.

Vines was only at 80 pitches, but he had more than done his job. His final line read: 4.2 innings, one earned run, four hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. A fantastic 2024 debut that should earn him the right to start again next time around the rotation.

Back to the Braves, they still had a lot of work to do to finish off the first game of a three-game set with a win in Houston. Brian Snitker tasked his bullpen, which really struggled against the Mets in Marlins, with covering the final 4.1 innings, and it began with Aaron Bummer, who relieved Darius Vines.

Bummer immediately entered and delivered one of the most pivotal pitches of the game, forcing Yordan Alvarez into a weak comebacker to end the inning. Alvarez would have another chance a couple of innings later. With the score the same, A.J. Minter relieved Pierce Johnson with runners at first and second and two outs. This is a matchup Alvarez got the best of last season, but not this time, as he popped up to shortstop to end the inning.

Minter would stay in the game and pitch a one, two, three eighth inning against the heart of the Astros lineup, and then finally, the Braves offense woke up after being dormant for most of the night. A walk to Adam Duvall followed by five singles led to four runs in the ninth inning, allowing Raisel Iglesias to take a seat and Jesse Chavez to pitch the final frame, which he did flawlessly, shutting the Astros down following a leadoff walk.

It was one of the most impressive performances of the season from the Braves pitching staff, something this group desperately needed after a rough week against the Mets and Marlins.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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