The legendary baseball writer Roger Angell turns 100 next week. In his classic book “The Summer Game,” he poetically describes his beloved sport: “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young. Sitting in the stands, we sense this, if only dimly. The players below us — Mays, DiMaggio, Ruth, Snodgrass — swim and blur in memory, the ball floats over to Terry Turner, and the end of this game may never come.”
The Atlanta Braves tried to defeat time on Wednesday and nearly succeeded, scoring 29 runs in their victory over the Miami Marlins. “My favorite urban flower, the baseball box score,” Angell once wrote. Well, he will love this box score. The Braves shattered their modern franchise record (since 1900) for runs in a game and just missed the Texas Rangers‘ record of 30 runs, set in 2007 in a 30-3 victory over the Orioles. The difference in that game? The Rangers were the visiting team and got to bat nine times; indeed, they scored six runs in the ninth inning. The Braves, playing at home, batted only eight times. (In the theater of the absurd department, it’s worth noting that the Rangers-Orioles game was the first game of a doubleheader.)
Ronald Acuna Jr. had a heckuva game, filling up his box score with crooked numbers: 4 4 3 3. He added three walks, so he reached base six times. He did not have the best game of the night.
Freddie Freeman homered, doubled and drove in six runs. He did not have the best game of the night.
Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley each scored five runs. That’s pretty rare. Only Alex Dickerson has also done it this season, and George Springer was the only player to do it in 2019. Neither Swanson nor Riley had the best game of the night.
That honor belongs to Adam Duvall, who went 3-for-4 with two walks, three home runs, five runs and nine RBIs. He tied Tony Cloninger’s franchise record for RBIs in a game; Cloninger, a pitcher, hit two grand slams in a game in 1966. Duvall hit three home runs in a game for the second time this season, becoming the first National League player with two three-homer games in a season since Albert Pujols in 2006. Only Sammy Sosa has three three-homer games in a season.
That isn’t even the most amazing Duvall three-homer fact. As MLB.com’s Sarah Langs pointed out, Duvall is the first player in Braves history with two three-homer games in his career. Yep. Hank Aaron had just one three-homer game for the Braves. Chipper Jones had just one. Dale Murphy, Eddie Mathews, Andruw Jones … just one. Bob Horner had a four-homer game, but he never had a three-homer game.
Growing up in New York, Angell watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig swat home runs at the original Yankee Stadium. I don’t know if he watched any of this game, but I can guarantee it was something he had never seen before: It was the first game in MLB history to end 29-9.
The Braves and Marlins combined to score the third-most runs in a game in the modern era. Yes, only in baseball is 1900 considered modern, but we use the 1900 cutoff for a reason. There were many crazy scores in early baseball, when errors were plentiful and the quality of play was obviously of a different standard than today. Indeed, the Boston Beaneaters, the forerunner to the current Braves franchise, scored 30 runs in a game in 1883 and scored 29 just 11 days later. If you care about 1883, this is technically tied for the second-highest scoring game for the Braves.
Still, 38 combined runs is pretty remarkable. Here are the other three games with at least that many combined runs:
June 9, 1901: Giants 25, Reds 13
Of course, the game was also much different in 1901. The Braves and Marlins combined for nine home runs Wednesday, but there wasn’t a single homer in this game. There were, however, 49 hits, including 31 by the Giants. Kip Selbach went 6-for-7, and George Van Haltren and Charlie Hickman each had five hits and five runs. This was the final appearance for Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie, known as the “Hoosier Thunderbolt” for his blazing fastball. He was a star for the Giants in the 1890s but hadn’t pitched in the majors in three years when the Reds gave him a chance. He pitched five innings in relief and allowed 15 hits and 10 runs.
May 17, 1979: Phillies 23, Cubs 22
The Phillies scored seven runs in the top of the first. The Cubs responded with six of their own as starters Dennis Lamp of the Cubs and Randy Lerch of the Phillies each recorded just one out. Yes, the wind was blowing out that day at Wrigley, and the teams combined for 11 home runs. Dave Kingman hit three long balls for the Cubs as part of a six-RBI day, and teammate Bill Buckner drove in seven, but Mike Schmidt won it for the Phillies in the 10th inning with a home run off Bruce Sutter.
Aug. 25, 1922: Cubs 26, Phillies 23
Yes, another Phillies-Cubs game at Wrigley Field (then known as Cubs Park). The Cubs scored 10 runs in the second and 14 runs in the fourth. The Phillies rallied late with 14 runs in the final two frames. Hack Miller homered twice and drove in six runs for the Cubs, and teammate Cliff Heathcote had five hits, two walks and five runs. One difference: This game took 3 hours, 1 minute to play; the Marlins and Braves required 4 hours, 14 minutes.
The Braves entered the day hitting .263/.337/.475 as a team while averaging 5.4 runs per game. Now the Braves are hitting .270/.345/.491 and averaging 5.9 runs per game.
The Braves hit 17 balls at 100-plus mph, which, believe it or not, is not a StatCast-era record. The Nationals had 20 100 mph balls in play in a 23-5 win over the Mets in 2017. The Braves’ five hardest-hit balls Wednesday:
1. Acuna, fifth-inning home run off Alex Vesia: 111.5 mph
2. Duvall, seventh-inning grand slam off Josh Smith: 110.4 mph
3. Acuna, eighth-inning fly out off Ryne Stanek: 110.3 mph
4. Freeman, third-inning home run off Jordan Yamamoto: 108.5 mph
5. Freeman, sixth-inning groundout off Smith: 106.8 mph
Duvall’s other two home runs were a 106.1 mph blast off Yamamoto and a 101.4 mph one off Yamamoto. Braves Twitter lit up in jubilation — except for one user named Joe Morales, who posted a crying meme with the words, “Sat Adam Duvall in fantasy.”
Yes, it was a bad day for Joe Morales. But it was a historic one for Adam Duvall and the Braves.