124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Braves pitcher Mark Melancon casually catching this Ozzie Albies bomb mid-bullpen warm-up is your highlight of the night

Say what you want about the abbreviated MLB season and its ensuing avalanche of asterisks, but in the NL, at least, things have gone according to chalk. Back in March, the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers were expected to be the two best teams in the NL, and on Monday night, almost exactly six months after the 2020 season was cast into the abyss, the two met in the NLCS just like we all expected.

The game itself was deadlocked until the ninth, when Ozzie Albies capped off a four-run Braves rally in the ninth with a towering moonshot to left center. If the Braves go on and achieve something special this season, it will be a moment their fans never forget. For the rest of us, however, the indelible image was not the dime-a-dozen dinger nor the 5-1 final, but Braves bullpen guy Mark Melancon reaching out mid-warm-up and snagging Albies' homer like a gold glove centerfielder easing under a pop fly to end the inning. Take a bow, Mark.

Perhaps most impressive, however, is the expanded bullpen angle, which finds Melancon seamlessly transitioning from follow-through to catch like this routine for him (although with the Braves bats being what they are, who knows, maybe it is.)

So hats off to Mark and the Braves, who have held their pitching staff together with twine and Elmer’s Glue this season. That said, when your pitchers field this well, maybe you don’t need pitchers anyway.