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Braves self-immolate in six-run fifth, lose first game of doubleheader 8-4

Cleveland’s lefty-heavy lineup proved too much for the Braves’ right-handed pitching to handle

MLB: Game One-Atlanta Braves at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

If you were hoping for a fun baseball-filled day this Saturday, I’m sorry to inform you that the first game of today’s doubleheader was not the game you were looking for. The Indians hung a six-run fifth inning on Atlanta pitching and cruised to a victory, as the Braves blew two leads and then went mostly quiet for the rest of the game.

The matchup for this game featured Julio Teheran and Corey Kluber, and neither starter actually fared all that well by the time the game ended. Teheran resembled his old self a fair bit, missing arm-side over and over and over to Cleveland’s lefty-heavy lineup, and issuing a ton of walks in the process. Kluber was uncharacteristically wild at times and got tagged for two home runs, so even though he cruised to a fairly easy victory, he didn’t exactly rack up the low FIP. On the relief end for the Braves, it was Wes Parsons’ turn to falter supremely, as he made a bad fifth inning situation worse, failing to do anything positive against any of the Cleveland hitters he faced.

The Braves actually struck first against Kluber, as Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. drew two-out walks in the first. Nick Markakis then smashed a hard grounder up the middle, scoring Freeman from first. But, Dansby Swanson struck out to end the small two-out rally. Teheran and the Braves’ defense gave that run right back, however. Teheran issued a one-out walk to Jose Ramirez (the good one) and then allowed a smash off the bat of Jason Kipnis. Ozzie Albies tried to play the ball to his side and only managed to deflect it, putting runners on the corners. Then, in supremely annoying fashion, Teheran induced Carlos Santana to absolutely sky a ball that hung up for an eon in shallow left... but not long enough for Acuña to actually get over and make the catch. It was a ball with literally one percent hit probability, but it fell wide of a sliding Acuña and tied the game. Teheran then issued another walk, but struck out the next two batters to keep the game at one run apiece.

Both pitchers worked a scoreless second, though Teheran’s included a four-pitch walk to Max Moroff, who entered this game with a -67 wRC+ and that is not a number I made up. The Braves pushed across their second run in the third. Ozzie Albies got a hustle double by looping a ball into center to lead off the inning, and advanced to third on a slow roller beaten out by Josh Donaldson. Freeman struck out looking, and Acuña was plunked with a Kluber pitch to load the bases. Markakis then lofted a pitch to left that went for a sacrifice fly, but Swanson tapped back to Kluber to once again stifle a rally. Teheran immediately issued a leadoff walk in his return to the mound, and put the tying run on third as Carlos Santana singled. But then, providence struck, as Jake Bauers inexplicably bunted with the tying run on third and none out. Teheran fielded the ball and fired home to retire the runner. A fly out and a pop out ended the inning, with the Braves still ahead 2-1.

After Kluber worked another 1-2-3 inning, Teheran actually managed to avoid walking anyone in the fourth. But, it was hardly a positive development, as Max Moroff (career 54 wRC+) blasted a home run off of him with one out, tying the game. Kluber went 1-2-3 yet again in the top of the fifth, and then things turned sinister.

To that point, Julio Teheran had pitched four innings with a 4/4 K/BB ratio and a homer allowed, but he was sent back out there for the fifth, against the heart of Cleveland’s lefty-heavy lineup. It kind of looked like he might get away with it and foil the TTO spirits for a bit, but fate had other ideas. Teheran started by striking out Kipnis, and a one-out single by Santana didn’t quite sound the alarm bells. A strikeout of Bauers put Teheran in great position to survive the frame. But, he didn’t. Greg Allen, he of the -51 wRC+ coming into the game (also not a number I made up), doubled to right past Freddie Freeman, scoring Santana as the go-ahead run. (Santana had somehow made it to second on a stolen base on an earlier pitch, which ... yeah, this game.) Now trailing, Teheran was still left in, and a Tyler Naquin single made it 4-2. Even though Cleveland’s lone right-handed bat was due up in the form of Kevin Plawecki, manager Brian Snitker had seen enough and lifted Teheran in favor of Wes Parsons...

...who completed the self-immolation in the inning. Parsons walked Plawecki, and nearly hit him in the head with a pitch in the process. He allowed a single to Moroff (5-2). He allowed another single to Leonys Martin (6-2). He walked Jose Ramirez, and then a passed ball by Brian McCann made it 7-2. Jason Kipnis then singled as well (he struck out to begin the inning), and it was 8-2. That was it for Parsons — three hits, two walks, no batters retired, boo, hiss, etc. Jesse Biddle came on and finally retired Santana to end the frame.

Kluber kept dealing (another 1-2-3), completing a string of ten straight Braves retired. Biddle then actually worked an effective inning (crazy what a lefty pitcher against a bunch of lefty hitters can do), with a 1-2-3 and two strikeouts of his own. The Braves got two of the runs they allowed back as McCann and Matt Joyce went back-to-back off Kluber to begin the seventh, ultimately meaningless runs that nonetheless smashed Kluber’s FIP, but the righty finished the frame and his night by retiring Donaldson on strikes. Jacob Webb came on for the bottom of the seventh and had his own two-strikeout inning, though unfortunately yielded a leadoff walk.

The rest of the game was very quiet. The Braves went down in order again in the eighth, this time to Nick Wittgren. Josh Tomlin returned the favor against his former team in the bottom of the frame. Brad Hand allowed a two-out pinch-hit single to Charlie Culberson, but got pinch-hitter Johan Camargo to fly out to end the game.

The Braves drop under .500 for the first time this season since reaching that mark on April 4. Luckily, they have a chance to get back to .500 later tonight, as Touki Toussaint tangles with Trevor Bauer.

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