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Out Of Control: Vizcaino Walks The World, Braves Lose In 10

Arodys Vizcaino’s loss of command dooms Braves to a 3-2 loss

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies managed to spoil Anibal Sanchez’s debut start for the Atlanta Braves, 3-2. Actually, Arodys Vizcaino’s lackluster showing in the tenth inning did most of the spoiling.

Tonight’s loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Braves and dropped their record to 5-3. The Rockies’ victory pulled their record back over the .500 mark (5-4).

It was a story of missed opportunities for the Braves. Not only did the offense ground into three double plays to stunt momentum during the early innings, but the control issues out of the bullpen squandered a late-inning surge by the bottom part of the order.

It was easy to get excited early, as Atlanta’s offense picked up where it left off on Friday. Ender Inciarte roped a double to right to lead off the game, but was stranded at second. The game continued as a pitcher’s duel through the first two innings, with zeroes in the run column on both sides.

Inciarte was the subject of some intrigue during his at-bat in the third inning. After home plate umpire Bill Welke missed an obviously ball four call - one which would have given the Braves two on and one out, with Ozzie Albies coming up - Inciarte grounded into one of the aforementioned double plays.

In the bottom half of that inning, Nolan Arenado broke up the scoreless tie with a one-out RBI single that plated Charlie Blackmon. Arenado was caught stealing and Carlos Gonzalez flew out to right to limit any further damage.

Trevor Story brought Colorado’s lead to 2-0 with a majestic solo shot in the fourth. This would be the last run allowed by Sanchez, who managed to strike out the side in the bottom of the fifth (though those Ks were interpolated by a DJ Lemahieu double and another Arenado single). Sanchez departed after throwing five solid innings, in which he allowed two earned runs, two walks, and struck out six. This showing has to give the Braves brass some faith he can hold down the fifth starter role until Luiz Gohara’s return.

Despite finally hanging one on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth, the Braves were the victim of some bad luck. Lane Adams drew a walk while pinch hitting for Sanchez, and following an Inciarte flyout, Albies laid down a bunt that was gave catcher Tony Wolters a fit. Albies was called out, though replays showed his foot clearly hit the bag before the ball was in Ian Desmond’s glove - but even after the Braves appealed, the call was upheld. Freddie Freeman followed with a double to score Adams, but the fleet-footed Albies would have surely scored and tied the game. Nick Markakis followed with a walk, but a Preston Tucker groundout deteriorated any semblance of momentum.

Between the aforementioned blown call on Albies’ sprint to first (clocked at 30.7 feet per second, according to Statcast’s David Adler) and a wildly inconsistent strike zone throughout the game, the Braves had trouble breaking through.

Sam Freeman relieved Sanchez in the bottom of the sixth, went 1⅓ innings and punched out two in another strong performance. He was followed by Dan Winkler in the seventh, who produced a groundout of Lemahieu and a strikeout from Arenado. After an uneventful top of the eighth, Winkler made quick work of the Rockies in the bottom of the inning. He generated a strikeout from Gonzalez, a groundout from Desmond, and got a fantastic running play at short from Albies to close out the inning out (despite allowing a hit to Gerardo Parra).

Just when it seemed all was lost, the Braves showed their ability to come through in a clutch.

The generally reliable Wade Davis came on to close it out for Colorado. After a one-out Kurt Suzuki walk, Peter Bourjos came on to pinch run for the heavy-footed backstop. Bourjos’ speed instantly came in handy, as he went first to third on a clutch Dansby Swanson single. Ryan Flaherty, one of the most pleasant surprises of the Braves’ early season offensive surge, slapped a single to center to score Bourjos and tie the game. It has been said about this Braves team a thousand times, but it continues to ring true: This team never quits.

A.J. Minter came into replace Winkler and was also a victim of the questionable strike zone. Tony Wolters led off the inning with a bunt single, then Minter appeared to ring up pinch hitter Chris Iannetta on a payoff pitch. Following a bunt pop-out from Blackmon, Lemahieu pulverized a frozen rope to short, only to see it speared by Albies in another diving, Superman-esque play. Albies’ quick reflexes caught Wolters far enough off third to double him up and send this one to extras.

Albies came up in the top of the following frame, only to be hit in the leg with one out. He swiped second and took third on an errant throw from Wolters. Unfortunately, sensational middle infield defense was a theme for both teams in the later innings, and Trevor Story made a great leaping catch to rob Nick Markakis of what would have been a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the tenth.

Snitker called on Vizcaino to face the heart of Colorado’s order in the bottom of the frame. An Arenado flyout was followed by an opposite field double by Gonzalez. Vizcaino mowed down Ian Desmond convincingly, then internationally walked Parra to force the righty-righty matchup with Story. From there, the wheels fell off, as a wild pitch and subsequent walk to Story loaded the bases. Instead of throwing strikes to Wolters, which would have been the better and more logical thing to do, Vizcaino instead threw four consecutive pitches outside the zone and forced in the winning run. Thus ending the game in heartbreaking and anti-climactic fashion.

For a relief corps that he struggled with walks so often this season, it was nearly inevitable this would happen at some point.

First pitch of the rubber match of the series is slated to begin tomorrow @ 1:10 MST. In the meantime, keep your heads up. Look on the bright side: at least the Braves didn’t lose 20-1, like the Marlins.

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