Even with all of the unlikely magic that transpired during the Braves’ 2018 season, there was always a feeling that the balancing act between talent and luck was bound to end with an unceremonious toppling off the proverbial tightrope.
Today’s game was one of missed opportunities for Atlanta, as the Braves stranded base runners all game long. With the Dodgers’ late inning offensive surge, it might not have mattered, but failure to capitalize on provided opportunities in the playoffs can be a death sentence.
Though he only made it four innings, Mike Foltynewicz gave a better showing today than he did in his first postseason start last Thursday. He only allowed one earned run during his time on the mound, and likely would have stayed in the game if the Braves had not been in the midst of a rally when his spot came up in the batting order. Even with improved results, command was still an issue as he struggled to find the strike zone. He wasn’t missing any one particular spot - he was missing all over the zone, as reflected by his four walks (one intentional).
He got into some trouble in the first, allowing a two-out, four-pitch walk to Max Muncy and an RBI double to Manny Machado. Just like that, the Dodgers were up 1-0. He put himself back in the soup in the second, putting runners on second and third with two outs before getting a huge strikeout from Joc Pederson and avoiding any damage.
His day ended in the bottom of the fourth, but it was not in vain. After Rich Hill issued back-to-back walks to Camargo and Flowers to start the inning, Kurt Suzuki came on to pinch hit for Folty with two outs and delivered a two-run single. Hope was alive as it was suddenly 2-1 Braves.
In the fifth, the Braves initiated a sequence that will likely haunt them throughout the offseason. A Freddie Freeman single (his second of the day) was followed by a walk to Nick Markakis. Johan Camargo’s ground ball to short looked like a surefire inning ending double play, but Machado bobbled it and loaded the bases with one out. With that, Rich Hill’s day was done. Ryan Madson induced consecutive pop outs from Flowers and Inciarte, leaving the sacks jacked and the score at 2-1. Of all of the missed opportunities, this is the one that stings the most.
Jonny Venters worked 1 ⅔ innings in relief - his longest outing as a Brave this season - and tied for his longest inning of the year. He left runners on the corners after a Yasiel Puig pop up fell between Markakis and Ozzie Albies, then was relieved by Brad Brach. Brach surrendered a two-run single to pinch hitter David Freese. The Dodgers lead, their second of the game, stood at 3-2.
For all of the late inning heroics the Braves were able to muster all season, there was still hope abound that they could string together one of their patented rallies to even the series. Alas, much of the hope for such a comeback was allayed in the seventh inning when Manny Machado slapped a Chad Sobotka offering over the fence and into the visitor’s bullpen, making it 6-2 Dodgers. Julio Teheran came on to stop the bleeding, and got two strikeouts to end the seventh.
The Braves put two runners on in the eighth, but in keeping with the theme of this game, they were unable to push them across and cut into the Dodgers lead.
They can now turn their focus to the offseason.
“Outpacing expectations” and “being a year ahead of schedule” are both true narratives and easy talking points, but for this team to turn into a true contender, there are obvious holes which need patching going into 2019. However, as a counter to these speaking points, the good news is that this team is light years ahead of where we thought they would be when the season began. So, we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
Even though it was not the result we had all hoped for, there is plenty to be proud of in this season, and even more to be excited about moving forward. Now as the offseason awaits, we can sit back and watch Alex Anthopoulos tweak the roster to prepare for a (hopefully) deep postseason run next year.
Until next time, Braves fans.