Thursday night’s rubber match featured a battle of youngsters. Touki Toussaint took the mound for the Braves against the highly-touted fireballer, Nate Pearson, for the Blue Jays.
Pearson entered 2020 as the #7 overall prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, and his 100 MPH fastball was too much for the Nationals to handle in his first major-league start. However, it was Toussaint’s curveball and improved splitter that stole the show on Thursday night.
Toussaint began the game with three perfect innings and was spotted a couple of early runs when Freddie Freeman hit a towering two-run homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps the most impressive part of his outing was how he responded to the brief bit of adversity he did experience. Toussaint made his first mistake to Bo Bichette to start the fourth inning, and unfortunately, it ended up in the seats, cutting the lead in half. But that didn’t stop Toussaint from attacking the strike zone. He retired nine of the next ten Blue Jays — six of them via strikeout, giving him a career-high nine on the night.
Toussaint ran into some trouble in the seventh, but once again, he looked like an eight-year veteran the way he handled it. The Blue Jays started the frame with a single and a double, putting the tying run on second, but Toussaint was able to force two weak grounders before Brian Snitker pulled the plug and brought in Tyler Matzek with a runner on second. Unfortunately, Matzek couldn’t hold the lead, giving up a single that tied the game, leaving Toussaint with a no-decision.
From there, it was a battle of the bullpens, which you might think would favor the Braves, but the back-end of the Blue Jays bullpen has been equally as efficient. Shane Greene and Mark Melancon took care of the eighth and ninth without allowing a baserunner, as they have pretty much every time they’ve been called upon through the first two weeks of this season.
The top of the Braves order could not come up with a hit in the eighth, and Marcell Ozuna lined out to start the ninth, bringing Nick Markakis to the plate with nobody on in his first full game back since being activated from the restricted list, and he didn’t disappoint.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 7, 2020
It was an unbelievable moment for the 15-year-veteran, and it had to feel a little awkward for him as he jogged around the bases with no fans, but it sounds like he’s pretty happy to be back with the team.
ATL's Markakis on social- distance walk-off celebration w/ teammates: "It was a little weird. But that’s the situation we’re in. We’re still out here playing the game, still playing for everybody, still playing for the fans. Whatever it is, whatever it takes, we’re gonna do it."
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) August 7, 2020
However, while Markakis will go down as the hero, Touki Toussaint is the real story from tonight’s game. The 24-year-old had everything working, and he threw all of his pitches with confidence, something Braves fans have been waiting to see from any of these young arms. It’s his second straight outing in which he’s looked like he could become the sidekick to Max Fried, and Lord knows do the Braves need him to be. Fried and the bullpen can only carry this team so far, but if Toussaint can keep pitching like that, things will be just fine. We will get a crystal clear view of just how far he’s come next week when Atlanta travels to New York on Tuesday to face Aaron Judge and the bombers from the Bronx.