Aaron Blair entered Friday night's start against the New York Mets with an ugly 7.19 ERA for the 2016 season. When he exited the mound for the final time at Turner Field, that ERA had swelled by nearly a full run and, as a result, the Atlanta Braves went on to suffer a 8-6 defeat.
The 24-year-old Blair had displayed some signs of life in recent days, but that optimism quickly faded with regard to Friday's outing. In 4.1 innings, the right-hander allowed eight runs on seven hits (with three walks), and Blair managed only two strikeouts against three extra-base hits allowed.
At the time of Blair's exit, the Braves were in a seemingly insurmountable 8-0 hole in the top of the fifth inning, but to the team's credit, the offense did not go quietly into the night. In the bottom half of that same frame, Atlanta touched up New York starter Steven Matz for six runs, highlighted by a 2-RBI double from Adonis Garcia and a pinch-hit, 3-run home run off the bat of Brandon Snyder.
In fact, the Braves nearly managed to eliminate the entire 8-run deficit in one fell swoop, leaving two runners on base as a result of a flyout from Jeff Francoeur and a strikeout from Nick Markakis. At that point in the game, there was some level of buzz that Atlanta could complete the massive comeback, but it simply was not meant to be.
The home team's offense failed to push across a run in the final four innings, though both the eighth and ninth innings were quite interesting. A 2-out double from Markakis in the 8th inning put some level of fear in the Mets before the side was retired on a ground-out from Garcia, and in the final frame, the Braves wasted a potential threat by attempting a bunt that ended up with a costly double play. Following that blunder and a strikeout from Jace Peterson, the lights were officially out.
Bright spots are often difficult to find in a game when the home team trails by as many as eight runs, but a few exist here. Atlanta's bullpen strung together 4.2 innings of scoreless baseball, and with that, the group now boasts a scoreless streak of 21.2 consecutive innings. Offensively, seven of the eight starters (sorry, Erick Aybar) produced a hit and, on a "normal" night, six runs would be enough to garner a victory.
The harsh reality is that Aaron Blair just isn't particularly good right now, and while there is real talent there, it will be interesting to see how the organization handles his deployment in the coming days. The same two teams will be back at it on Saturday at Turner Field, and the pitching match-up should be a juicy one between Julio Teheran and Jacob deGrom.