Braves broadcasters spend half inning interviewing bank CEO

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I was watching the Phillies-Braves game yesterday afternoon. Yes, I know the Yankees game was on at the same time and that, as a national baseball writer, I should probably pay more attention to what they do this year than what a couple of rebuilding teams are doing, but it’s been 33 years since I began watching the Braves. I can’t quit ’em.

There are a lot of bad things about watching Braves games. Chief among them is that they haven’t been very good for a few years, but that’ll pass. It always does. Manager Brian Snitker’s somnambulant bullpen management can be rage inducing at times. Yes, that was an exciting comeback yesterday, but they wouldn’t need to come back from so much if Snitker hadn’t insisted on using his two worst relievers when the game was still close, but hey, I’m a fan and I pick nits.

The broadcast booth is another reason Braves games can be a chore. Chip Caray and Joe Simpson are not among the best announcers in the game. I’m used to them by now so it’s not that big a deal, even if they try my patience at times. Yesterday, though, they weren’t the worst thing in the broadcast booth by far. That honor was left to SunTrust Bank Inc.’s Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers.

Yes, the Braves and Fox Sports Southeast subjected us to a half inning of an in-game interview with a bank executive, and it was very clearly a pre-arranged advertisement, complete with pre-arranged speaking prompts from Caray and Simpson. I call them “prompts” instead of “questions,” because you could tell that Caray and Simpson were utterly uninterested in what the CEO had to say and were merely doing their corporate duty. I felt bad for them, actually.

Simpson asked the CEO if his bank’s naming rights deal for the Braves’ new ballpark was everything he thought’d it be (it was). Caray asked how the bank quantifies the benefits of the naming rights deal, and yes, he cast it in those exact terms. My favorite moment came when Simpson asked the CEO, “what does it mean to you and your company to get the season underway.” I’ll admit that I was embarrassed when I heard that, because I realized that I had neglected to do a season preview for SunTrust bank, what with its season getting underway, or whatever.

From there they moved on to a clearly planned shoutout to the bank’s branded financial advising service which I will not name because, unlike the Braves, SunTrust is not paying me to plug their products. Eventually, the CEO made a point to refer to the fact that the bank helped underwrite the pregame National Anthem/giant flag ceremonies. Ooohh say can you see?

This is the sort of content baseball fans really want, you know, especially on Opening Day.

Not that the CEO did not appreciate the importance of Opening Day. Indeed, he was asked specifically how he felt about it. His response:

“Hopefully we have 24 more years of these.”

No, neither the Braves nor baseball in general are going to fold in 24 years. That’s just how many more years SunTrust owns the naming rights at the Braves’ ballpark and, clearly, that’s all that really matters. Note: I hope no one told him that the Braves have a spotty track record of, you know, staying in stadiums for as long as 24 years, but that’s the topic of another article.

After that the inning ended. I don’t remember what happened on the field. It wasn’t really a priority for the broadcast.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.