After a rough outing from Julio Teheran in the team’s most recent contest, the Atlanta Braves entered Thursday evening’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in need of an improved performance in the area of run prevention. While that transpired for at least part of the night on the back of Anibal Sanchez, Atlanta’s offense went silent at an inopportune time and, in combination with some dreadful bullpen work, the end result was a 8-2 defeat to begin the weekend series.
The first four innings of action were (very) quiet on both sides, with only four combined base-runners. While some of that could be attributed to questionable offense, both Sanchez and Los Angeles starter Rich Hill were quite effective.
The scoreboard finally lit up in the fifth frame, though, and it came in something approaching self-inflicted fashion from the Braves. Old friend Matt Kemp led off the inning with a walk and that was quickly followed by a throwing error from Charlie Culberson, who was in the lineup at shortstop in place of a resting Dansby Swanson. That placed Sanchez in a tough position with runners on second and third base with no outs and he was unable to fully avoid damage.
An RBI groundout broke the scoring seal and, one batter later, the Dodgers produced a bloop single to take a 2-0 lead. From there, Sanchez was able to escape the inning but he issued a lead-off home run (to recently acquired star Manny Machado) in the sixth and that placed the Braves in a 3-0 hole.
The bottom of the sixth did provide a scoring opportunity for Atlanta, however, with Freddie Freeman (on an error) and Nick Markakis (on a walk) reaching base with two outs. Kurt Suzuki then flew out to end the threat, though, and that was a microcosm of the evening to that point.
Then, in the seventh, the Dodgers placed more daylight between the two teams, as a lead-off single was boosted by a throwing error from Ozzie Albies to place Sanchez in another less than ideal spot. Hill, the opposing pitcher, then broke things open with a single to plate a fourth run and that was the end of the line for Sanchez, who pitched far better than the final box score indicated.
Sam Freeman then relieved the starter and, well, things did not improve. He did record an out but it was sandwiched between a double, (intentional) walk and a single, with the end result being a six-run gap on the scoreboard. Peter Moylan came in to secure the final out but the damage was done and there was no recovering from the extended margin.
To make things uglier, Luke Jackson entered in the seventh and promptly allowed two runs while recording only a single out. Things were magnified by the second error of the night from Culberson but that was enough to fire up the bullpen phone again, with Evan Phillips putting out the fire and helping to keep the working margin in tact.
Finally, the Braves did manage to dent the scoreboard and the fireworks came off the bat of Ronald Acuña. The youngster blasted a two-run home run in the eighth inning to avoid the shutout and that at least provided a glimmer of positivity.
All told, Sanchez was charged with five runs (four earned) over 6.1 innings of work but, in contrast to his previous outing, the numbers felt unjust. Alas, the offense had little in the way of bright spots to speak of (aside from Acuña’s long ball) and it was not an especially enjoyable night at the ballpark.
The Braves and Dodgers will face off again on Friday evening, with Mike Foltynewicz scheduled to oppose Clayton Kershaw in a headline-grabbing battle. Stay tuned.