After much sturm and drang on a much-dreaded West Coast road trip, the Braves dropped Sunday’s afternoon finale to the Dodgers by a 7-2 score, losing their second series in a row and finishing 2-4 on their sojourn. Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman homered off of Los Angeles starter Ross Stripling, but Sean Newcomb and the bullpen struggled as the offense managed nothing else.
The Braves had their hands full with Stripling, who pitched about as advertised (i.e., very, very good). Stripling needed just an insane 24 pitches to record his first nine outs of the afternoon, collecting three strikeouts in the process. Meanwhile, Sean Newcomb was not quite as sharp. Newcomb issued a leadoff walk to Chris Taylor, but got out of the inning thanks to two strikeouts and a lack of focus from Taylor, who wandered off first on a 3-1 pitch and was picked off by Tyler Flowers. A 1-2-3 second seemed to be an auspicious sign for Newcomb, but a poor third proved to be the Braves’ undoing.
Newcomb’s first pitch of the third inning was knocked for a cheapie homer inside the left field foul pole by Logan Forsythe. Newcomb then yielded a line drive single to Austin Barnes, who was bunted to second by Stripling. Chris Taylor then hit a comebacker that Newcomb did not field effectively, putting runners on second and third. Newcomb then failed to strike out Max Muncy on a full-count curveball that hit the dirt, walking the bases loaded. The next two hitters (Matt Kemp, Enrique Hernandez) then hit near-identical liners to center, each one driving in a run. Newcomb then buckled down and struck out Yasiel Puig (who snapped his bat over his knee in frustration) and Cody Bellinger, but the damage was done.
The Braves gave their fans a ray of hope in the top of the fourth with a bounceback frame. Ozzie Albies ended a well-fought, eight-pitch at-bat with a solo homer to right center on a full-count, down-the-middle fastball. It was his first homer since May 22 (three-and-a-half weeks), and amazingly, his first RBI of June. Two batters later, Freddie Freeman also worked a long at-bat and then deposited the seventh pitch of it, a hanging slider, into left center field to make the score 3-2 Dodgers. Nick Markakis would then single, and with two outs, Charlie Culberson laid down a perfect bunt to put himself on base as the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, Ender Inciarte then hit an unproductive fly to left to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Newcomb had a 1-2-3 fourth, which Stripling matched in the fifth. Newcomb allowed his fourth run on a get-me-over strike one fastball to Muncy in the bottom of the fifth, which Muncy creamed into left center. (It was another unexpected homer in Dodger Stadium this weekend: per Statcast, it only had a hit probability of 81 percent due to its middling exit velocity of 102.4 mph and an overly high launch angle of 31 degrees.) Stripling once again beguiled the Braves in the sixth, and then it was the Dodgers’ turn to unload another big inning.
Newcomb departed the game after allowing a one-out double to Cody Bellinger. Peter Moylan came on to try to keep the deficit to three, but failed to do so. Forsythe hit another fly into the left field corner, this time falling short of the stands but still bouncing into them for a ground-rule double that made it a 5-2 game. After recording an out and then allowed an infield single and a stolen base to Stripling, Moylan walked Chris Taylor to load the bases and was yanked for Sam Freeman, who also failed to do his job by walking Muncy to score the Dodgers’ sixth run.
Stripling then finished with a flourish, striking out both Tyler Flowers and Charlie Culberson before departing. Erik Goeddel then took over, allowing two singles while working an inning and a third of scoreless ball.
The Braves tabbed Luiz Gohara to pitch the seventh and eighth. Gohara allowed a leadoff homer to Hernandez to cap the scoring, but retired the next six batters he faced with two strikeouts. Tyler Flowers hit a one-out single off Adam Liberatore in the ninth, but a soft liner to shortstop from Inciarte ended the game a few minutes later.
Sean Newcomb’s final line was fairly ugly: five runs allowed in five and a third, with seven hits (two homers), two walks, and six strikeouts. It was the most runs he’d allowed since his first start of the year. Stripling continued to rack up an insane K/BB ratio, adding six punchouts and zero walks once again to his ledger while pitching six and two-thirds of four-hit, two-run ball. Ozzie Albies was the only Brave to record two hits; no other Brave avoided making outs in two of their trips to the plate.
Despite the poor trip, the Braves remain tied for the division lead with the Washington Nationals, who dropped a 2-0 decision to the Giants today despite having Max Scherzer on the hill. Both teams are off tomorrow, and the Braves return home to play the Mets in a brief two-game set that starts Tuesday night.