For four innings, things were looking quite good for Aaron Blair on Thursday afternoon. Then, they weren't.
Blair, who had allowed only two hits and two walks through four scoreless innings, imploded in the fifth frame, allowing six runs to cross the plate as the San Francisco Giants broke the game wide open. From there, it was purely academic, as the Atlanta Braves failed to muster any sustained offense against Madison Bumgarner, before settling for a 6-0 defeat in the series finale.
In that fateful fifth inning, it was the perfect storm of disaster for the 24-year-old Blair. The right-hander issued a leadoff walk to Gregor Blanco, and in short order, that was followed by a massive, opposite-field home run off the bat of opposing pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Then, Blair issued another free pass to Denard Span and, again, the ensuing batter, Joe Panik, deposited a pitch over the fence for another home run. Finally, Blair struck Matt Duffy with a pitch and, on cue, a third home run was blasted from the bat of Buster Posey.
If you are scoring at home, that is six straight batters without recording an out and the quickest possible path from 0-0 to 6-0 on the scoreboard. Posey's home run ended the day for Blair and, as you may expect, generated a great deal of consternation about the youngster's overall performance, though it should be noted that he was quite effective in the first four frames.
The offensive side of the game for Atlanta wasn't much, if any, better. Bumgarner displayed his full range of greatness in shutting down the Braves, and he completed 7.2 scoreless innings while allowing only four hits (two walks) and striking out 11 (!) batters. The biggest threat of the day came in the first inning, when a Freddie Freeman double would have plated Chase d'Arnaud if not for a bounce that cleared the fence and, by rule, kept the runner at third base. The Braves failed to capitalize, and after that, Atlanta's best chance to score came in the eighth inning before Jeff Francoeur grounded to second to strand two runners.
In short, Madison Bumgarner was simply better than the Atlanta Braves lineup on this particular afternoon (and, to be frank, the great majority of the time), and Aaron Blair could not claim the same trend with regard to the San Francisco Giants. The Braves will now travel to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the Dodgers beginning on Friday night, and in the series opener, Julio Teheran will face off against Kenta Maeda. Stay tuned.