Braves hit three homers in eighth, move to 12-1

18 Comments

The scorching Braves broke open a 2-2 game in the eighth Tuesday, with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla all hitting homers off Kelvin Herrera in a 6-3 win over the Royals.

Crushing Herrera made the victory especially impressive. While hardly a household name, Herrera has been one of the AL’s best relievers since the start of 2012. Including his first six appearances this year, he had allowed four homers and posted an 88/22 K/BB ratio in 89 2/3 innings.

The Braves hit five homers in all tonight. Juan Francisco hit the first two, both off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie.

The eighth-inning outburst came too late for Braves starter Kris Medlen, who left after seven, so Eric O’Flaherty ended up with his third win in relief. He’s tied for the major league lead in victories.

The Braves have won 10 straight since losing their second game of the season, and they’ve outscored the oppositing 62-23 this season. They’re the only team in either league with fewer than four losses.

The only bad news for the Braves tonight was that reliever Luis Avilan went down with a hamstring injury in the ninth and had to be helped off.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Leave a comment

If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge’s and Gary Sanchez’s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.