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Atlanta’s 6-game win streak fueled by young Braves

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No. 3 prospect Elder goes 7 strong in 5th start, while rookie Harris provides clutch HR

August 14th, 2022

MIAMI — Time and time again, the Braves have proven they’re not out of a ballgame until the final out is recorded. The winning mentality the club has developed permeates all levels of the Minors. It — along with some impressive baseball skills — is what enables top prospects to skip Triple-A for the Majors in short order.

Atlanta saw that from No. 1 prospect Vaughn Grissom, who debuted on Wednesday in Boston fresh from Double-A Mississippi and delivered in a big way over his first five games in the Majors. The club saw it from No. 2 prospect Kyle Muller, who shoved for six innings on Saturday in his second big league start.

Elder delivered a career-high seven innings on Sunday afternoon at loanDepot park before the 21-year-old Harris hit his 12th homer of the year to tie the game on the first pitch of the ninth inning, igniting a rally that led the Braves to a 3-1 win and their first four-game sweep of the Marlins since 2018.

“I was looking for a great pitch to hit, and I got it,” Harris said. “I was just trying to do anything I could to get on base to help us get a win. I came up to the spot and did what I did, and I really blacked out. I mean, it was an unmatched moment. … It was surreal.”

Two batters later, Grissom drew an 11-pitch walk, proudly tossing his bat toward the visitor’s dugout after working a 3-2 count and fouling off five pitches in a row to stay alive. Then Grissom trotted to first base like he owned the basepaths. That at-bat alone might have been the most impressive all afternoon, especially from a player in just his fifth Major League game — a credit to the organization’s skill in developing Major League-ready talent.

“Grissom’s two walks were just — for a young guy, [those] were just like, ‘Oh, my god,’” manager Brian Snitker said. “To take some tough pitches like he did … Just big at-bats by those [young] guys.”

Grissom scored the game-winning run a few at-bats later, and though the “W” didn’t go to Elder — who tossed a career-high seven innings with 10 strikeouts and allowed one run on three hits — the comeback couldn’t have happened without the 23-year-old’s top-notch outing.

When Elder walked off the field after striking out Peyton Burdick to end the seventh, he had no clue it was his 10th.

“I don’t think it would have changed anything,” Elder said. “I was just rolling along and felt comfortable out there.”

That ease comes from repetition, but also from Elder’s in-game awareness. He knows he performs best when he has good command of his sinker. In his four previous Major League starts in April, his sinker moved more toward one side of the plate. That started to happen again on Sunday, but he knew how to fix it this time.

“I got [catcher William Contreras] to scoot out a little bit, about a ball off, and just give me a target,” Elder said, “and I threw it there, and I was successful with it.

“I think just with more than anything, it’s just the confidence of it. I just commanded it to both sides of the plate. And when I can have it moving to both sides of the plate, I like my chances.”

And Elder, who was optioned to Triple-A after the game, is not the only one who likes his chances when his stuff is working.

“Bryce is definitely a big league talent,” said Harris, who played with Elder in the Minors. “For him to get that opportunity — and you see what he did, he just absolutely shoved. … He’s a stud and I mean, [when] he gets his chance, he’s going to deliver every time.”

First Harris, now Grissom, Muller and Elder. It seems the Braves have a surplus of “big league talent” in their farm system. That’s the opposite of a problem, especially for a team in postseason contention and leading the NL Wild Card race by six games while trailing the NL East-leading Mets by 5 1/2.

It’s Atlanta’s emphasis on winning that has helped develop such superb talent. Of course, that doesn’t happen without first making smart Draft picks and, as Muller said on Saturday, “putting the right people on the bus.”

“Learning how to win is a skill in and of itself,” Muller said. “So having guys come up who know how to win, they know that that’s the priority when you get here, and doing the little things you need to in order to get to that point is what we’re looking for as a big league club. And I think these younger guys bought in really fast.”

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