Olson’s check-swing double in 11th helps Braves top Astros

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA — The last thing Matt Olson wanted to do was hit the ball.

Then he saw it heading for a spot in the infield where no one was standing.

Sometimes, hit `em where they ain’t works just as well as smacking it over the wall.

Olson’s check-swing double to left with the infield shifted the other way brought home the tying run in the 11th for Atlanta, and pinch-hitter Travis d'Arnaud won it with a single through Houston’s drawn-in defense.

Rallying twice in extra innings, the Braves beat the Astros 5-4 on Saturday night for their 11th win in 12 games.

The reigning World Series champions are still three games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets, but no team is playing with more confidence than the Braves.

“We don’t give up until the last guy,” d’Arnaud said. “It’s a contagious thing.”

The Astros scored two in the 10th, only to have Atlanta match them in the bottom half – with 21-year-old Michael Harris II providing the big hit with an RBI double before he came around to score on Robbie Grossman‘s single through the shift.

Houston went back ahead on Jeremy Pena’s slow roller that brought home the go-ahead run, but the Braves rallied again.

This time, they ended it.

After Dansby Swanson was placed at second base against Ryne Stanek (1-1), Austin Riley walked. Olson tried to hold up his swing, but it worked out just fine when he sent a run-scoring hit through the abandoned shortstop hole.

“I was not happy to make contact,” Olson said. “Then I saw no one was standing there. I actually started laughing pretty quickly. Somehow, I wind up with a double.”

With runners at second and third and no outs, the Astros intentionally walked William Contreras. But d’Arnaud lined one past diving first baseman Yuri Gurriel to win it for the Braves.

“We’re playing some good baseball,” d’Arnaud said.

Jackson Stephens (2-2) earned the win by giving up an unearned run in the 11th.

“We fought, they fought,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It was a great game to watch if you’re a fan.”

Both starters turned in strong performances, each going six innings and allowing only a solo homer.

Cristian Javier pitched two-hit ball for the Astros but again failed to get much offensive support. Houston has been held to two runs or fewer in nine of his 23 starts, leaving him with a 7-8 record even though his ERA dropped to 2.88.

Rookie Spencer Strider surrendered three hits, walked two and struck out nine for the Braves. The growing popularity of the 23-year-old Strider, known for his thick mustache and 100 mph fastball, was evident from all the the fans in the sellout crowd of 42,893 wearing fake ‘staches in his honor.

Atlanta’s Vaughn Grissom kept up his torrid hitting since being called up from the minors less than two weeks ago.

The 21-year-old launched one into the Astros’ bullpen in the fifth, giving him three homers in his first 11 big league games.

Grissom’s homer came after Pena went deep for Houston in the top half of the inning to break up the scoreless duel. The Astros shortstop drove one the opposite way, the ball just clearing the tall wall in right field for his 16th homer of the season.

Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez was back at the ballpark, one day after shortness of breath led him to be taken to an Atlanta hospital for tests.

While doctors found no cause for his breathing problems, Houston held Alvarez out of the lineup Saturday and kept a close eye on him for any signs of further trouble.

Baker said Alvarez could return to the lineup as a designated hitter for the finale of the three-game series.

PITCHER’S DUEL

There was little indication of all the drama to come in extra winnings.

Through nine innings, the teams had combined for just seven hits and 21 strikeouts.

“When runs are at a premium, you know it’s going to take a big hit,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They got some, we got one more.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros OF Mauricio Dubon wasn’t seriously hurt after crashing into the wall attempting to make a catch in the fifth inning of Friday’s game. Dubon was available Saturday but wasn’t used. “He’s better,” Baker said. “He hit in the cage.”

UP NEXT

RH Charlie Morton (6-5, 4.04) will take the mound for the Braves in Sunday’s series finale. He’ll be opposed by RH Jose Urquidy (11-4, 3.69, who is coming off 7 2/3 innings of one-hit ball in his last start against the White Sox. Urquidy has 10 consecutive quality starts since June 14, going 6-1 with a 2.64 ERA over that span.

Tyler Glasnow scheduled to rejoin Rays’ rotation

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to rejoin the rotation at Cleveland after missing nearly 14 months because of Tommy John surgery.

The Rays’ Opening Day starter last year hasn’t pitched this season after undergoing the procedure on Aug. 4, 2021.

“I think we’re pretty confident he’ll be starting for us,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said before the game with Toronto. “This is the first time he’s thrown pain-free in quite some time, so he’s encouraged by it.”

The 6-foot-8 right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 14 starts last year and is a key addition as the Rays near a wild-card spot.

“Compared to the past, like, three years it feels way better as far as postday and the week leading into starts and stuff,” Glasnow said. “It’s good to have an UCL, you know.”

Cash said Glasnow will throw around 45 pitches in his initial outing, which should allow him to go two or three innings.

“Two innings of Glasnow is still a huge plus for our team,” Cash said. “Like to get three innings. If we do, great. If we don’t, that’s fine, too.”

Glasnow allowed one run, one hit, four walks and had 14 strikeouts over seven innings in four starts with Triple-A Durham.

“I’m really excited,” Glasnow said. “I’m approaching it like normal, staying on routine. Feels normal.”

Glasnow signed a two-year, $30.35 million contract that will delay the start of his free agency by one year last month. He’s making $5.1 million this year and will get $5.35 million next season and $25 million in 2024, which is the first year he would have been eligible for free agency.