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Bullpen implodes as Braves fall to Rays to complete sweep

Pedro Ciriaco wanted to play the hero, but the Atlanta Braves bullpen wouldn't allow it on Wednesday night.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This should have been Pedro Ciriaco's night.

The Atlanta Braves fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 9-6 in the series "finale" on Wednesday night and, simply put, Ciriaco should have been the hero. The 29-year-old infielder finished with a 2-for-3 night that included a home run and a career-high four RBI, but his performance went for naught as the Braves blew a three-run lead in spectacular fashion to endure a sweep in central Florida.

In a sharp twist from Tuesday, the Braves began the night with strong offense. Joey Terdoslavich dented the scoreboard with an RBI double in the second inning, and later in the frame, Ciriaco contributed a 2-run single to give Atlanta a 3-0 lead. From there, Matt Wisler did solid work, allowing only two runs over five innings to keep the Braves in front for good.

Ciriaco later connected on what was his first home run since June 20, 2013 (!), and that blast kept the cushion at 4-1 as Tampa Bay headed to the plate in the bottom of the fifth. The Rays would string together a bit of a rally, though, as Wisler issued a solo home run to Grady Sizemore in the fifth and another run in the sixth by nature of a fielder's choice. In that sixth frame, the Rays actually had a strong chance to take the lead, but David Aardsma trotted in from the bullpen to generate a massive strikeout with two runners on base and two outs to preserve the advantage.

The top of the seventh was kind to the Braves, as the road team pushed two runs across to provide some breathing room. Ciriaco (there's that man again) drove home a run with a sacrifice fly and, moments later, Terdoslavich crossed as a result of a wild pitch to stretch the advantage to 6-3. Still, nothing comes too easy for this club, and things got far too interesting in the bottom half of the inning.

Sizemore led off with a ground rule double to left field, but it was far less of a "double" than it was a miscommunication between Michael Bourn and Cameron Maybin. That mistake came back to bite the Braves, as James Loney pushed a run across later in the inning with a double to right, and Logan Forsythe gave Tampa Bay another run with a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.

Braves left-hander Matt Marksberry would nearly escape with the lead at 6-5 after retiring Asdrubal Cabrera (via pop-out), but a wild pitch against Brandon Guyer allowed the tying run to cross the plate at 6-6. Guyer followed that with a double of his own, and he would score a run as Marksberry failed to touch the bag while covering first base on an infield single by Kevin Kiermaier, falling asleep to allow Guyer to speed to the plate. In total, Marksberry allowed four hits and five runs (three earned) in just two-thirds of an inning, and this will be a night he will remember with disgust.

From there, the Braves weren't finished with the implosion. Ryan Kelly entered the game and promptly allowed a two-run home run to Curt Casali. Suddenly, Atlanta faced a three-run deficit of their own at 9-6, but no comeback was imminent. The team went down in order in the eighth, and even with a minor flurry with two baserunners in the final frame, the night ended with a final score of 9-6.

Wednesday night was cruel for Atlanta on a number of levels, but especially so for Pedro Ciriaco. At times, this team appears motivated to create new ways of losing, and on this night, they succeeded in that vicious task.

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