Photo Credit: Hyosub Shin / AJC
Baseball has always been a game of surprises, and each year never fails to deliver an unexpected one. One of the biggest and most welcoming surprises for the Braves this year has been the consistent and timely pinch-hitting of our bench players, particularly from two guys: Ehire Adrianza and Pablo Sandoval. So far this season, they are a combined 4-for-9 with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs Though neither were regarded as big free agent signings, they have both proved their worth to the team in big ways.
Adrianza, a nine year veteran and career utility shortstop, has spent four seasons each with the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins. His best season came in 2019 when he had a career high .272 batting average, .349 on base percentage, and OPS+ of 104. He found his way onto the roster for the Braves this season after a great spring training that included him hitting .400 and eight extra base hits. His first home at-bat on Friday was a three run home run to extend the Braves lead. The next night, he scored the go-ahead run in the 7th inning for a 5-4 Braves victory.
Sandoval is the more well-known of the two to Braves fans. Nicknamed “Panda”, Sandoval spent the first seven years of his career as a fixture of a Giants team that won three World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014, winning the World Series MVP award for the 2012 season. A two-time All Star, Pablo also spent time with the Boston Red Sox before returning to San Francisco in 2017. He joined the Braves late last year and even made the postseason roster. Panda made his impact on Opening Day for the Braves this year, as he hit a game tying two run home run against the Phillies off the bench. That would be the only runs scored by the Braves in that game. He also hit a go-ahead two run homer against the Nationals in Wednesday’s doubleheader game that the Braves won 2-0.
Both men have already surpassed the pinch hit home run totals from last season, and it’s only April. Having some pop off the bench is a huge asset for a team looking to make a run, and hopefully both men and other bench players such as Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo will be able to get in on the fun as the season goes on.