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Braves still winless after 5-1 keelhauling in Philadelphia

Come for the angst, stay for the Simpsons references.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a list of teams that are winless so far in 2019, having played three or four games so far.

  1. Atlanta Braves

That’s it.

No, this isn’t a premature April Fool’s joke. The Braves got tossed aside by the Philadelphia Phillies yet again on Sunday night, dropping to 0-3 in ignominious fashion.

A recap’s a recap, sure, but when watching the latter half of this game, mostly all I could think of was the classic Simpsons episode “Homer’s Enemy,” which you may know better as “the one with Frank Grimes.” The climactic scene of that episode is iconic, and describes this game pretty well.

“I can lose a game in which the opposing starter issues six walks, because I’m the Atlanta Braves!”

“I can throw away a baserunner ahead of Freddie Freeman on an ill-advised steal attempt, because I’m the Atlanta Braves!”

“I can let a starter that barely made it through his second turn through the order and needed 11 pitches to retire the opposing pitcher continue to face the lineup a third time through, because I’m the Atlanta Braves!”

“I can bring in a reliever for the sake of platoon advantage, but then let him continue to pitch even after he’s lost the platoon advantage, because I’m the Atlanta Braves!”

“I can throw away another baserunner on a steal attempt when down by two runs, because I’m the Atlanta Braves!”

Feel free to add touching high-voltage wires for dramatic effect at a time and place of your choosing. You get the idea.

The point is, this wasn’t a fun game if you’re a Braves fan. It was at least suitably, entertainingly tense at first, as both Kyle Wright (making his first career MLB start) and Jake Arrieta (who was dreadful in many ways) struggled with command and control again and again. But, after that period of rising tension, the Braves snapped much like good ol’ Grimey, and the game ended in familiar fashion.

The futility started early. Arrieta walked Ender Inciarte to start the game, but that leadoff baserunner was erased on a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play where Josh Donaldson took a called third strike. Arrieta then walked Freddie Freeman, but a fly out ended the inning. Kyle Wright then issued three straight two-out walks of his own, missing badly over and over and over and recording just three strikes in fifteen pitches. But, Odubel Herrera bailed him out by flailing badly at a changeup for strike one and a curveball for strike three to stifle the Philadelphia rally.

In the second, the Braves loaded the bases with one out thanks to an Ozzie Albies single, a Brian McCann walk, and an Arrieta pitch that grazed Dansby Swanson’s astral projection but still awarded him first base in the process. But, the Braves once again laid a goose egg, as Kyle Wright stood still for four straight pitches and struck out looking, while Ender Inciarte bounced out to end the frame. Wright, to his credit, recovered for a 1-2-3 frame that featured a strikeout, which set up a short-lived Braves lead. Josh Donaldson singled to lead off the third, moved to second on a walk to Freeman, moved to third on a fielder’s choice, and then scored as an Arrieta pitch got by J.T. Realmuto. I can only score on passed balls, because I’m the Atlanta Braves! Sorry. Not really.

That lead was very short-lived, though. Kyle Wright literally threw one pitch with the lead, and it was deposited into the stands in right center by Andrew McCutchen. Welp. Things looked like they were going to get out of hand as Bryce Harper doubled and Rhys Hoskins walked later in the frame, but good defensive positioning had Ozzie Albies well-placed to turn a J.T. Realmuto grounder up the middle into a double play that ended the inning. Wright then once again handled the bottom of the order in the fourth in easy fashion, but things started to unravel in the fifth.

The Braves once again wasted a scoring chance, squandering a Freeman single and a follow-up walk as Nick Markakis grounded out. Wright then had an epic 11-pitch battle that ended with a hard lineout to center against the opposing pitcher, and was left in to face the top of the Philadelphia order for a third time. That went about as predictably poorly as possible, with Wright walking McCutchen on four straight balls after getting ahead 0-2, and then hitting Jean Segura. That was it for Wright, who ended his day with a gross 5/4 BB/K ratio and a homer yielded for good measure. Max Fried was summoned from the bullpen to face one of the few lefties in Philadelphia’s lineup (which is good!) but then walked Harper (which is bad!). Fried was then allowed to face Hoskins despite the righty-on-lefty matchup (also bad!) and then walked him to force in the go-ahead run (very, very bad!). That wasn’t it, either, as the ceded platoon advantage to Realmuto led to a hard liner that went for a sacrifice fly as Nick Markakis’ feeble throw home could not dissuade nor prevent the third run from scoring. Luckily, the Braves’ shortstop was well-positioned to help Fried (platoon advantage now intact) retire Herrera for the third out of the inning.

After that, well, meh. Super meh. Arrieta yielded his sixth and last walk to Albies to lead off the sixth, but Albies for some reason decided to steal a bag while down by two, and was gunned down. So much for that potential rally. Shane Carle came on in relief of Fried and worked one scoreless inning despite two walks, but after Adam Morgan set down the Braves in order in the seventh, Carle happened to give the ESPN broadcast everything they hoped and wished for, as he served up a towering home run to none other than the star of the show (apparently) himself, Bryce Harper. That made it 4-1, and Carle promptly got ejected from the game by hitting Hoskins two pitches later. Luke Jackson was next in line for the relief corps, and he gave up another run thanks to a couple of singles before the inning was over.

The Braves went down very quietly to Pat Neshek and Hector Neris after that. Luke Jackson did strike out both McCutchen and Harper in his second inning of work, which was possibly the only thing in this game to not go as horribly as one may have predicted at the outset.

Anyway, that’s that. The Braves now head home to face off against the 1-2 Chicago Cubs, still searching for their first win. What classic Simpsons episode will they resemble tomorrow? Stay tuned and find out!

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