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Top of the Order: Braves' Ghost Bench

Mady Mertens-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Top of the Order, where every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'll be kicking off your baseball day with some news, notes, and thoughts about the game we love.

Matt Olson's hitting streak is expected to hit 500 on Saturday against the Padres, but he's far from the only iron man in Atlanta this season. Third baseman Austin Riley, center fielder Michael Harris II, right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., and designated hitter Marcell Ozuna have started every game for the Braves in their respective positions, and Orlando Arcia has started 36 out of 37 fast. Second baseman Ozzie Albies would have been in the Never Takes A Day Off club, had he not missed eight games with a broken toe — yes, only eight games.

All told, excluding catcher and left field (where Jarred Kelenic and Adam Duvall platoon), the remaining seven positions have had 259 starting opportunities (seven positions multiplied by 37 games), only nine of which have gone to backups: six for Luis Guillorme (five at second and one at shortstop) and three by David Fletcher at second base. But that lack of playing time didn't stop the Braves from shuffling players in and out of the two benches that lefty and reliever Chadwick Tromp occupied. (Starting catcher Sean Murphy hasn't played since Opening Day, when he strained his oblique; while Travis d'Arnaud, an All-Star pitcher himself, has started 24 games behind the plate.)

Atlanta signed Guillorme to a $1.1 million contract at the start of the season, a move that seemed to ensure he would earn a spot for the rest of the season, even though he didn't fit the bill well. (For example, Guillorme doesn't have the speed to be a slow-running threat.) With all those starters in bullet defense, the Braves didn't really need him to do much of anything; he will be there if there is an emergency because he can play any of the four positions on the field. However, the Braves show up indeed they didn't need him, since Guillorme was now a member of the Angels. Outfielder Forrest Wall, who sat in the last spot on the bench on Opening Day (along with Guillorme, Duvall, and d'Arnaud), is now back in Triple-A.

In total, two benches that are not a catcher or a left fielder have been occupied by five players this season: Wall, Guillorme, Fletcher, Luke Williams, and Zack Short, who was acquired from the Red Sox before. trade of Guillorme. Currently, the two rotating members of the ghost bench are Short and Williams. Those five combined for 34 plate appearances in 21 games, Atlanta sticking to its brand of having its everyday players be just that.

Of course, after I posted this column, the Braves lifted Riley from last night's 4-3 loss to the Mets due to what Atlanta declared “left side stiffness.” Right now, it's not clear if Riley will be in the lineup tonight against the Cubs, but the Braves said his outing was a defensive one, so the discomfort — right now it feels too early to call it an injury — doesn't seem too bad. .

During this time of responsibility, teams stress the importance of having a deep bench, but that doesn't seem necessary for the Braves. Indeed, one of the main reasons the Braves have been so good over the past few years is that their most talented players have been very solid.

Christian Scott Looks Legal

Christian Scott has pitched well in the big leagues in his first two starts with the Mets. In his first game on May 4, he pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Rays. He followed that up with eight strikeouts in Saturday's quality start against the aforementioned strong and resilient Braves lineup. The Mets lost both starts, however, providing Scott with one run per game.

Scott, who entered this season ranked no. 98 on our Top 100 Prospects list, heralded from the minors for having a fastball that — as Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin wrote — “jumps at hitters,” though that's been his most impressive pitch thus far. He showed promise with a pitch that allowed opponents to score 37 percent of the time against him, but there was some controversy, as hitters combined for nine hits in the heater, including a home run. That bodes well for Scott because it shows he can get past his signature pitch. He also has two offensive breaking balls, along with his fastball, which could make him a talented member of the Mets' next rotation.

Wrapping Up the Weekend

Let's check out my highlights this weekend:

• Tyler Glasnow and Michael King had the pitcher of the year award on Friday. Each starter pitched seven innings: Glasnow allowed one run on one hit (a solo homer to Kyle Higashioka) and struck out 10; King did not give up a run and struck out 11, giving up just two hits. A Higgy homer kept the game at 1-0 until the top of the eighth, when Yuki Matsui coughed up the go-ahead run on a Freddie Freeman sac fly. Finally, Luis Arraez delivered the win with a walk-off hit in his first home game with the Padres; helped us expand the program in a big way, especially as the DH of San Diego.

• Jo Adell continued her hot streak over the weekend. His homer Saturday was his third in four games, and his wRC+ is now 134. With Mike Trout sitting on the shelf and Taylor Ward taunting each other, Adell is the only angel I'm particularly afraid to talk about right now, and yet she still sits. seventh place on the list. That being hard for comfort sounds silly.

• We'll have more on Paul Skenes' debut later today, but my takeaway from his outing is that he looked great! It's weird to get high scores in sports, I know. Command came and went, but things look like they can get anyone out, and I think his splinker will be his best pitch, especially against lefties. Skenes allowed three runs over four-plus innings, though two of those runs came after he was out with runners on first and third and nobody out in the fifth. He finished with six hits, including a home run off Nico Hoerner, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

As tense and box-filling as Skenes' outing was, it was far from the most interesting thing about that game. With Skenes out, the Pirates put up a bases-loaded six (!!!) in the fifth inning, with a long rain delay in between all the chaos. Despite this embarrassing performance, the Pirates still won, 10-9, thanks to five home runs.

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