Braves

Dallas Keuchel rolls again as Braves top Phillies

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Dallas Keuchel has been the Braves best starting pitcher over the last month, giving up three earned runs in his last five outings. He took the mound tonight against Zach Eflin of the Phillies, who has really struggled every time he has faced Atlanta. The Braves entered today with a magic number of nine and would relish the opportunity to clinch the division in the Nationals home ballpark at the end of the week.

They kept those hopes alive Wednesday.

Keuchel cruised through the first three innings, striking out four as only two Phillies reached base. Then the Braves broke the ice in the top of the fourth. They took advantage of an error that extended the inning, allowing Johan Camargo to come to the plate, but he was forced to exit after suffering an injury.

Camargo hit a hard foul ball right above his shin protector, leaving him in excruciating pain. Thankfully, the ball narrowly missed his knee cap, and the Braves announced later in the night that he was day-to-day with a right shin contusion.

Matt Joyce took his place and floated a single in front of the left-fielder, leaving two men on for Tyler Flowers, who made the Phillies pay with a three-run blast – his 11th of the season. For as much grief as the fan base has rightfully given Flowers, he’s been much better of late and is cementing his spot on the playoff roster.

Keuchel experienced his first rough patch in the bottom of the inning, surrendering back-to-back singles. With runners on the corners and nobody out, however, he was able to force a fielder’s choice, limiting the damage, as he struck out the next two batters.

He ran into some trouble in the fifth as well. After Sean Rodríguez flew out, he gave up a single, walk, and a hit-by-pitch to the next three opponents, loading the bases with one out for Bryce Harper. But once again, Keuchel took a deep breath and forced a critical groundball to Ozzie Albies for a tailor-made double-play. That would be all the scares for the former Cy Young Award winner on the night. He retired the Phillies in order in the sixth, ending his outing with a line of six innings, three hits, one run, three walks, and eight strikeouts.

Chris Martin relieved Keuchel in the seventh and pitched the 99th immaculate inning in major league history and the fourth this season. For those of you that don’t know what that is – it’s striking out the side on nine straight pitches. This bullpen has come a long way; if I do say so myself.

Shane Greene came in for the eighth and retired the first two batters quickly. Then things got sketchy. A seven-pitch at-bat ended in a walk to Harper, bringing Rhys Hoskins to the plate, representing the tying run. After a nine-pitch battle, Greene was finally able to force Hoskins to hit a soft liner to Dansby Swanson.

Austin Riley pinch-hit in the top of the ninth with two out. He successfully laid off three junk pitches and jumped on a 3-2 fastball that only did not leave the ballpark because of its height. The ball hit high off the left-center field wall and jump-started a rally. At least, it almost did. The Phillies intentionally walked Ronald Acuña to pitch to Ozzie Albies, who hit a laser into right field for a single, but Harper came up throwing and nailed Riley at the plate to end the frame. Still, seeing Riley have an at-bat like that is promising because Brian Snitker will be looking for any reason to keep him on the playoff roster. He has that much talent.

Melancon came on for the save, which did not lack stress. The strike zone was noticeably tighter for the Braves closer, who gave up two infield singles, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with one out. Dansby Swanson saved the day by catching a line drive that would have made things way too close for comfort for the second out, and then Josh Donaldson helped out Melancon with this play in foul territory to end the game, shrinking Atlanta’s magic number to eight.

Dallas Keuchel collected his eighth win of the season and fifth in a row following his one-run performance. Although, his ERA over his last six starts actually went up slightly in the process. The Braves go for the series win tomorrow with Julio Teheran on the mound to face Drew Smyly.

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