Whenever a pitcher makes a return from injury, it’s best to temper expectations. That rings especially true when a 23-year-old hasn’t made an appearance in three full months… at least one would think.
That wasn’t the case on Wednesday night from Huascar Ynoa, who was making his first start with the Braves since May 16th — the day he broke his hand by punching the dugout following a rough outing against the Brewers. Ynoa did appear three times in the minors as a part of his rehab, but the numbers weren’t exactly pretty. His combined ERA in Rome and Gwinnett was just south of nine; however, you wouldn’t have known any of this by his performance against the Marlins.
The only abnormal aspect regarding Ynoa’s outing was his pitch count. It was clear he was on a pretty tight leash and was pulled right at 80 pitches. Other than that, he was flawless, completing 5.1 shutout innings and letting just four baserunners reach. Ynoa also struck out four Marlins, as his fastball/slider combination looked as smooth as ever. Tyler Matzek took over after back-to-back singles in the sixth, but he was able to get out of the jam without any damage.
Unfortunately, Ynoa couldn’t get the win in his return, and that’s because Alcantara was just as dominant over a much longer stretch. The hard-throwing right-hander for The Fish cruised without much resistance through the first seven innings. The Braves only had two opportunities with runners in scoring position up until that point, but they were able to manufacture one in the eighth.
A one-out walk, followed by a stolen base, wild pitch, and then a two-out single to right-field by Jorge Soler led to the game’s first run. Luke Jackson relieved Chris Martin, who pitched a perfect seventh inning and also set down the Marlins in order. However, closing games has been the only thing the Braves haven’t been able to do consistently over the last couple of weeks. Two of Will Smith’s four blown saves have come in his last five appearances, which is why Austin Riley’s homer to lead off the ninth inning was so critical. Still, Smith wouldn’t need it. He shut down the Marlins in order, giving the Braves their fifth win in a row and second of the series as they aim for the sweep on Thursday over their division rival.
At this point, a win is crucial, but I could have taken a loss as long as everything checked out with Ynoa. He did all that Braves fans could have asked for and then some in his return. With him back in the fold and Ian Anderson also nearing a return, the pitching depth on this team is about to be silly over the final month of the season, and hopefully, into the playoffs.