The Braves fell to the Pirates on Sunday by a final score of 6-5, capping off a sweep for Pittsburgh over the weekend. Julio Teheran had an outstanding outing for Atlanta, going seven innings while striking out four and allowing just two runs, both unearned. Once again the Braves bullpen was unable to follow up a scoreless performance from Teheran with anything resembling effectiveness. The lead was surrendered in the ninth, and after the Braves scored in the top of the tenth inning, a walk-off two-run homer from Starling Marte sent the Braves home empty-handed.
Pittsburgh was not kind to the Braves in this series, as the team committed two errors in each of the three games, leaving their pitching staff to escape multiple jams that would have been avoided otherwise. A key play in Sunday’s game occurred in the ninth inning, when a single to left fielder Jace Peterson was booted, allowing Josh Harrison to score after he had previously been held up at third. The next batter grounded into what would have been a game-ending double play if not for the tying run scoring on the previous play.
In addition to their inability to play sound defense behind their pitching staff, the Braves continue to have difficulty once their starting pitcher leaves the game. Jim Johnson was unable to close out the game on Sunday, and Jose Ramirez allowed a double and walk-off homer in the tenth without recording an out. The lone “bright spot” for the Atlanta bullpen was Arodys Vizcaino who allowed an unearned run on two hits, but did not relinquish the lead. This unit will have to get better or this could be a long, frustrating season.
On a positive note, first baseman Freddie Freeman crushed the ball all afternoon, hitting two home runs and finishing a triple short of the cycle while driving in two and scoring three times. Dansby Swanson also homered in this one, lining an inside fastball into the left field bleachers off Gerrit Cole in the first inning. Those two did the most damage, but the Braves as a team were able to pound out 13 hits in this game. They were largely unable to produce in these situations, leaving ten runners on base.
This was no doubt one of the most frustrating Braves games in recent memory, and it becomes yet another discouraging performance from a group that had higher hopes heading into the season. Despite their unnervingly bad start to the season, the Braves still have 156 reasons to keep fighting and will now head to Miami before returning home to break the seal on SunTrust Park on Friday. This game kind of makes everyone watching want to punch themselves in the face, but there are still a lot of games to be played (for better or worse).