Welcome to your Morning Walk, a recap of the previous day’s events in Braves Country. Remember to follow us on Twitter for all updates.
Braves 11, Mets 7
The weirdest number from Saturday night’s game may have been the fact that Touki Toussaint came to the plate four times and didn’t start. But that will happen in a strange night where both starters combined for five total outs, there were 13 total walks, and the Braves scored runs of four different pitchers.
The pitching matchup saw Jason Vargas, who seemingly every Mets fans wants to get rid of, facing Sean Newcomb. The Braves southpaw worked around a double and a walk to skate through the first, which was more than Vargas could do. Hitting leadoff with Ender Inciarte getting the day off, Ozzie Albies opened things with a base hit. After a walk and a flyball, Ronald Acuña Jr. got the scoring started with a base hit to plate his good buddy, Albies. Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson both walked, the latter of which scoring Donaldson. Mets manager Mickey Callaway saw enough, removing Vargas for Corey Oswalt – and receiving an early trip to the showers after arguing balls and strikes during the pitching switch. Johan Camargo kept the rally going with a two-run single to give the Braves a four-run first.
Usually that type of offensive effort settles young pitchers. It gives them something to work with. They don’t have to be too fine and can just let loose, pounding the zone with strikes and letting their defense help them out.
But Sean Newcomb is not an usual young pitcher. He went 3-0 on the first batter he saw in the second before giving up a base hit. He then walked Keon Braxton, gave up a base hit to load them, and then surrendered a two-run double. After a sacrifice fly and a single, his day was over with the score tied at 4. Toussaint, who replaced Kyle Wright on the roster earlier that day, got out of the rally.
The crazy game took another turn the following inning. With one out, Albies walked. Josh Donaldson hit a long double before Freddie Freeman plated a run on a knuckler he sent up the middle that deflected off Amed Rosario’s glove at shortstop. Acuña Jr. chased home Donaldson before Markakis doubled in Freeman.
Atlanta would add on to their four-run lead in the fourth when Nick Markakis hammered a bomb into the Chophouse in right field. A bloop single by Dansby Swanson that plated Freeman and Donaldson’s first homer closed off the scoring for the Braves.
Toussaint did what Newcomb couldn’t and saved the bullpen in a major way. He went six innings, allowed four hits, an unearned run, walked a pair, and struck out seven. I’m sure he didn’t think he would throw 85 pitches out of the bullpen when he got the call from Gwinnett, where he had been scheduled to start. But he handled it extremely well and even picked off Juan Lagares at second base.
The Mets got closer in the ninth off Chad Sobtoka, but the tall righty retired the final five batters to preserve the win. His struggles did prompt the Braves to warm up Arodys Vizcaino. We’ll have to see if that effects Vizcaino’s availability tomorrow should he be needed.
Top of the Lineup Does Its Job
RBI opportunities have been few-and-far between for Freddie Freeman, who actually failed in a couple of opportunities with runners in scoring position Saturday. He also picked up his seventh RBI with a single. But in a change from our regularly scheduled broadcast, Freeman actually got multiple opportunities with runners on. Both Ozzie Albies and Josh Donaldson were on base four times each and accounted for five runs scored of the Braves’ eleven runs.
Perhaps Brian Snitker will rethink his lineup now. He’s already been willing to move Dansby Swanson up to sixth in the order after his hot start so he might be flexibile to let Albies stay in the leadoff spot for now. Ender Inciarte, who played two innings as a defensive replacement, has struggled tremendously so far and is notorious for slow starts.
Touki to Stay?
When spring camp opened up, many – including yours truly – had Touki Toussaint at the top of the depth chart for the fifth starter. And then things happened and Toussaint found himself on the outside looking in as other righties like Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright started during opening weekend. But Toussaint could be here to stay after his outing Saturday night.
It’s no secret that for everything that is good about Newcomb, the control issues continue to plague him. Hitters hit only .233 against Newcomb last year, but there’s that small little thing about walking the third most batters in the National League last year. And while the rebuilding Braves could wait for Mike Foltynewicz to figure it out, how much of a leash can they give Newcomb as they try to compete this season in what is shaping up to be a rough NL East?
And how can they say they are trying to compete and demote Toussaint after the outing he had?
The Braves hope to get Mike Foltynewicz back next week after he makes one more rehab start on Monday. That lines him up to return on 4/20, which I hear is a holiday for some. At that point, he’ll join Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, Max Friend, and someone. That someone was expected to be Newcomb. But the former first rounder has made 52 starts in the majors and still seems like he’ll need another 50 to really flash the talent many believe he has. I’m not saying you give him on him. Or Wright. Or Wilson. But just like those two righties, it might be time to let Newcomb work in a lower-pressure setting like Gwinnett.
Minor League Rundown
GWI 3-2 LOSS at Louisville: Andres Santiago was the beneficary of Toussaint getting called up and allowed three runs, two earned, over 2.2 innings. He took the loss. Rafael Ortega continues to pound the ball, hitting his third homer and is up to .368 on the year. Austin Riley got the other RBI, but is still under .200 on the early campaign. Shane Carle went two scoreless innings in relief and relief prospect, Jacob Webb, K’s 2 in a perfect frame.
MISS vs. Mobile: Postponed.
FLA 11-1 LOSS at St. Lucie: While the big league Braves scored eleven on the Mets, their high-A counterparts returned the favor on the Braves’ affiliate. Keith Weisenberg took the brunt of the damage by allowing five runs, though Jon Kennedy found no Camelot in his one inning, giving up three runs. Florida managed just five hits with Riley Unroe picking up a pair and scoring their only run.
ROME 6-5 LOSS vs. Greenville: Logan Brown had three hits, including a double, and Griffin Benson hit his third homer, but a five-run fourth – mostly again Trey Riley – sent Rome to another loss. Brown, a force so far at catcher with a near .500 batting average, did leave during the game so we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Benson, a first baseman who has always looked the part of a masher, hit just five homers in his first 130 games. Yesterday was his eighth game of 2019 and he already has three. Also want to keep an eye on that as the season progresses.
-Brian McCann looks like he’ll be ready to return on Wednesday, making the hamstring scare he had last week quite minor. Alex Jackson would return to the minors when McCann is activated. Jackson has earned rave reviews for his work to improve behind the plate. Hopefully, the legit power returns and he can put both his offensive potential and catching improvement together.
-Ronald Acuña Jr. has five consecutive multi-hit games, going 11-for-19. He’s now hitting .300/.417/.660 and no one else has brought up the increased pressure from his contract extension.
-Saturday was Newcomb’s shortest start of his major league career. The previous worst start came last July 3, when he gave up three hits (two homers), five runs, and walked five in 2.2 innings against the Yankees.
-Braves will look to escape their four-game set with a sweep as they finish up their series against the Mets. It won’t be easy. Jacob deGrom is going for New York. He gave up a half-dozen runs against the Twins last time out, but the Braves have only mustered a career .544 OPS against him. In 111 innings over 17 starts, he has a 1.70 ERA against the Braves. He’s also 6-5 against the Braves, which is shocking to think he has five losses against the Braves. Maybe the Mets offense will again take the night off as they have often done when deGrom faces the Braves. Going for Atlanta will be Julio Teheran. He was nearly unhittable last time except for one six-run fifth. He was very hittable that inning.