With two recent injuries to the Atlanta bullpen, the last thing the Braves could afford was a lengthy rain delay. But that is exactly what they got in a 5-4 victory in extra innings against the Minnesota twins.
What appeared to be a sunny game at Turner Field quickly gave way to a 10 minute downpour on the 28,663 fans in attendance, followed by an hour-long rain delay, which included two brief power outages.
Atlanta’s two big lefties Johnny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty are likely to miss the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced before Tuesday’s game that he is unsure when injured relief pitcher Jordan Walden will return to the roster.
Despite the injuries, the Braves still bolster one of the best pitching staffs in Major League Baseball. Atlanta leads MLB with a collective 2.64 ERA and ranks sixth in the majors with a .223 opponents’ batting average.
But with the string of injuries, the Braves need their starters to go deep into the ball game, but after the delay pitcher Tim Hudson went just five innings. He had 5 strikeouts on 81 pitches and gave up two earned runs.
“For [Hudson] to give us five innings after that delay was a tremendous feat,” said Gonzalez. “As a coach, sometimes you need to do what’s best for your player and not risk any injury.”
After Hudson left in the fifth, the Braves’ Anthony Varvaro took over and pitched a solid two innings, giving up just one hit with two strikeouts. Varvaro, who will likely anchor the bullpen with rookie left-hander Luis Alvilan, has pitched five straight scoreless appearances dating back to May 13.
Alvilan did not fare as well, however, and the Twins broke through against he and right hander Cory Gearrin to take the lead in the eighth as Minnesota scored two runs on three hits.
The Braves needed some late inning heroics to cover for the bullpen’s mishap. With two outs in the ninth inning Evan Gattis hit his third pinch hit home run to tie the game and Freedie Freeman had the walk off RBI in the 10th to give Atlanta the win.
“Varvaro pitched great for us; the eighth inning got a little sideways but Gattis tied it up and we battled for the win,” said Gonzalez.
As has been the case seemingly all season, Gattis’s teammates were singing his praises as well.
“I think it’s unbelievable what [Gattis] is doing,” said Freeman. “I think that’s three or four times he has put us ahead to win it.”
Atlanta recently called up relief pitcher Cory Rasmus from Gwinnett to help the roster. Starting Pitcher Brandon Beachy was sent to Gwinnett for a rehab assignment.
After finishing the series against the Twins, the Braves will travel on a five-game road trip to face the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.