It was a sloppy affair in Cincinnati on Tuesday night, as Kevin Gausman struggled and the Braves bullpen gave out free passes like Halloween candy. In a see-saw matchup that saw the Braves leave the tying run on third in each of the last two innings, the Reds ultimately pulled out a 7-6 victory.
Gausman’s outing wasn’t catastrophic per se, but he battled as much on this night as he has at any point during this season. He still managed to go 5 ⅓ innings and struck out six while only walking two, but also allowed six runs (four earned) and his bullpen surrendered seven walks behind him. It was not exactly a joy to watch.
Meanwhile, Reds starter Sonny Gray was dominant for the first five innings, but came unraveled in the sixth and allowed the Braves to sniff victory, but it just was not to be on this night. Gray, a long-time Braves target, showed why Atlanta stayed interested in him for so long, showing off an impressive arsenal that kept the Braves offense in check for much of his outing.
One of the more interesting things to track coming into this game was whether the Reds’ abysmal luck would turn around. As a handful of Cincinnati’s regulars came into this game carrying a BABIP below .200, the Reds were bound for some positive regression. Some of that regression came in the first inning, as Jesse Winker (with a .109 BABIP coming in) roped a single and has brought home on the next pitch by a Yasiel Puig bomb into the left field seats (even though home runs don’t count towards BABIP, the point stands). With that, it was 2-0 Reds in the first.
After working around multiple base runners in subsequent innings, Gausman danced too close to the fire in the bottom of the fourth and gave up a home run to Tucker Barnhart to stretch the score to 3-0.
The Braves pulled back to within two in the top of the fifth. After Dansby Swanson tripled to lead off the inning, an Ender Inciarte sacrifice fly brought him home to make it 3-1.
The sixth inning was ultimately Gray’s undoing, as the Braves momentarily took the lead. Ozzie Albies led off the sixth inning with a single, then a high fly off the bat of Josh Donaldson landed just in front of a charging Winker, and Albies sprinted home to bring the Braves within one. Donaldson wound up on second, and then on the next pitch Freddie Freeman slapped one down the left field line to JD home and knot the game up at 3.
A Ronald Acuña, Jr. grounder looked to be a surefire first out, but a momentary bobble by third baseman Eugenio Suarez allowed Acuña to reach on an error. After a wild pitch from Gray, Freeman and Acuña both moved up a base, then a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly allowed the Braves to sneak their way into a 4-3 lead. With that, Gray was removed from the game, and what looked like a surefire victory for Sonny had suddenly turned into a one-run deficit. In what would be a common theme for the rest of the game, Acuña was left standing on third base.
Unfortunately, the Reds took the lead back in the bottom of the inning. A Donaldson error allowed Jose Iglesias to reach, then Derek Dietrich dropped a bunt against the shift to bring the slumping Jose Peraza to the plate. Naturally, Peraza roped a two-run double down the left field line - more BABIP regression from a guy who was due for it - to put the Reds back ahead, 5-4, and chase Gausman from the game.
Jesse Biddle came on in relief, and if you’ve been watching for the last week or so, you know exactly how it went for him. Three consecutive walks (one intentional, two unintentional) brought home a run, then after Wes Parsons mercifully relieved him, a Puig sac fly put the Reds up 7-4. In classic Braves bullpen fashion, Parsons re-loaded the bases, but then struck out Barnhart to end the threat.
Over his last five outings, Biddle has walked eight batters and logged eight outs. You almost have to wonder if he has thrown his last pitch in a Braves uniform.
The Braves offense was determined to not go quietly. In the top of the seventh, Ender Inciarte followed Dietrich’s lead and dropped a bunt down the third base line, then pinch hitter Charlie Culberson smacked a two-run double to bring Inciarte home - 7-5.
Jared Hughes walked Markakis with one out in the eighth inning, then he came around to score on a Dansby double, thus making it 7-6. After Swanson stole third, he was unceremoniously left standing on third, as Amir Garrett came on to relieve Hughes and Inciarte grounded to second base immediately. It
Chad Sobotka came on and loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but no runs came around to score. His line will show he came away unscathed, but what won’t show up in the box score is the emotional damage he has done to his relationship with the fanbase.
Reds closer Raisel Iglesias came on to close out the game in the ninth, and promptly allowed pinch hitter Matt Joyce to double into the right field gap. After an ill-advised bunt attempt from Albies (seriously Ozzie, why?), Josh Donaldson came about four feet from a home run that would have given the Braves the lead. Freeman grounded out to first to end the game, with the tying run on third. Brutal.
These two teams will meet again tomorrow, with first pitch slated for 6:40pm ET.