After Wednesday’s doubleheader-sweep against the Yankees, the Braves are now 4-0 in seven-inning contests this season for those of you not keeping track at home. And it’s not just that they’re currently undefeated during these shortened affairs, it’s also the fact that the Braves have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 20-4.
- @ Phillies: W, 5-2
- @ Phillies: W, 8-0
- vs. Yankees: W, 5-1
- vs. Yankees: W, 2-1
For college baseball and the minors, seven-inning doubleheaders have been quite common over the years, but this is essentially brand new for MLB.
According to MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, the last time an MLB doubleheader featured two games of seven innings or less was way back in 1912, when the Indians and Red Sox hooked up for five innings in Game 1, followed by a six-inning Game 2.
But for this season, the circumstances are unique, given our country has had to deal with a pandemic for roughly six months now. As a result, to cut down on extra-long days at the ballpark, the league decided on July 30th to approve seven-inning doubleheaders.
And as far as the Braves are concerned, the change has been a blessing. But can they keep it up?… and how significant would it be if they did?
That first question is a tough one. As of now, the Braves currently have just one more doubleheader scheduled for this season: a two-game set against the Nationals on September 4th (because of a postponement from August 19th). However, with the way things have gone recently, as far as more COVID-19 outbreaks and the even more-recent player protests from more acts of racial injustice, it would be quite surprising if that series with Washington is all that’s left as far as doubleheaders. Still, it would be pretty cool to see the Braves finish the 2020 regular season perfect in seven-inning games. If anything, it would be an unprecedented achievement, unlikely ever to happen again (that is, unless the rule-change evolves into something permanent).
So why are the Braves so good in shortened games?
Well, if you recall, that doubleheader with the Phillies last week had a lot to do with some good luck. Game 1 of the series featured an MLB debut by Huascar Ynoa, in which he pitched just 2.1 innings before giving way to five different Braves’ relief pitchers that combined to allow just one run from two hits. And Game 2 was simply a route as the Braves’ lineup tallied 14 hits and eight runs to go along with Max Fried’s four-hitter.
Then, of course, this most-recent doubleheader featured a debuting Ian Anderson versus an injury-riddled Yankees’ offense in Game 1. Although the opposing starter was Gerrit Cole, so I’d probably still would’ve given the advantage to New York. But as we witnessed with glee, Anderson pitched like a ten-year veteran and managed a freakin’ a one-hitter, while the Braves’ offense slugged three homers. And then once again, Fried was up for a Game 2 start, which I suppose is just another thing he’s good at this season. The lefty lasted six innings and struck out five on his way to an NL-leading five wins on the season.
There’s some luck involved here. But there’s also some solid pitching going on too, and it’s logical to expect a win most of the time when the pitching is on. But what’s interesting is that the Braves’ starting pitching, as a whole, has been about as bad as it’s been in years this season. For some reason, those few instances that the starting staff has performed well just happened to be during a doubleheader.
So who knows if the Braves will keep this seven-inning dominance up. I’d imagine a lot of the team’s success will depend on how many more doubleheaders pop up between now and the end of September. But either way, it’s nice to see the Braves taking advantage of these shortened affairs. A win is a win, even if it isn’t nine innings. Because you never know, when it comes down to it, their success in seven-inning games may be what determines whether the Braves are a three seed or the top team in the playoffs.
One thing’s for sure, though, so far the rule-change is working in the Braves favor.