If I had to pick a TV show to describe the Friday night contest between the Braves and the Rockies, I think it would be MTV’s Undressed. Happened late at night, was pretty awkward and cringy at times, featured a lot of famous people doing stuff that they weren’t famous for, and ultimately disappointing. I think that about sums it up. The Braves gave up extra-base hit after extra-base hit and once again tripped all over themselves in the game’s latter innings, blowing a lead and then a tie while handing Colorado a fairly easy victory.
While the game ended quite poorly, it at least began well. Facing Colorado starter Antonio Senzatela, Ozzie Albies drew a leadoff walk and then motored around the bases to score on Josh Donaldson’s ringing double down the left-field line. A Freddie Freeman groundout moved Donaldson to third, but there he would be stranded, as groundball-walk-groundball did not yield further run-scoring fruit.
Max Fried, making his fifth start of the year for the Braves, fared really well... until he didn’t. He faced just one batter over the minimum over the first three innings, striking out four and impressively wending his way out of a leadoff double in the second. But, he found himself trailing 2-1 to Colorado after throwing just two pitches in the fourth. The first pitch, to Trevor Story, was a hanging changeup that went for a homer over the left-field fence. Perhaps the most annoying part of the sequence was that Ronald Acuña Jr. had a bead on the ball and almost made a play-of-the-year-type leaping catch over the fence, but had the ball bounce out of his glove for a game-tying home run. The second pitch, to Nolan Arenado, was a curveball that didn’t break enough below the zone, and it went to more or less the same location as Story’s drive — just a little deeper. Just like that, blam, 2-1 Rockies. Fried recovered to add two more strikeouts to his tally in ending the frame, but the damage was done.
The Braves, to their credit, tied the game right back. Nick Markakis hit a leadoff double that sliced into left field, moved to third on a one-out single by Tyler Flowers, and then scored on a broken-bat bloop into center by Ender Inciarte. Unfortunately, Albies ended up rolling out to end the inning.
Fried collected one more strikeout in the fifth, as both he and Senzatela hurled 1-2-3 frames. But then, things went sour. Recall that Fried hadn’t been able to bamboozle neither Story nor Arenado the second time they faced him in this game. Yet, he was allowed to face them a third time, and the results were as disappointing as they were predictable. Story lashed an 0-1 middle-middle fastball into the right-field corner for a leadoff double. Arenado then smashed a nearly-identical first-pitch fastball into the right-field gap, and the Braves trailed again. Daniel Murphy, who doubled off Fried his first time up, sprayed an 0-1 fastball for another double to left. 4-2 Colorado. Fried struck out David Dahl before departing, but once again, the damage had been done. He finished his day allowing four runs on seven hits in 5 1⁄3 innings of work, but with a sparkling 8/0 K/BB ratio. In an annoyingly baseball-y way, it continued his trend of a worse FIP and worse Game Score in each successive start, yet his xFIP (1.17) was the lowest of the season. Still, that’s the sort of thing that happens, especially in smaller samples — entering the game, Fried had nearly a full run of difference between his FIP and xFIP (3.15 to 4.10). Now, they’re nearly identical, at 3.46 and 3.60, respectively. Of the seven hits Fried allowed, six were for extra bases.
The Braves summoned Josh Tomlin from the bullpen, and he put out the small fire, consisting of Murphy on second, by getting two straight outs. The Braves clawed one of the yielded runs back in the bottom of the inning, as Tyler Flowers demolished the most grooved 3-1 fastball possible from Senzatela for a solo home run. Annoyingly (that sentiment comes up a lot in this recap), the inning actually started with a Nick Markakis leadoff single that was erased on a double-play ball off the bat of Johan Camargo; had that not happened, the game would have been at least tied. That third Braves run chased Senzatela, and Carlos Estevez came on to strike out Inciarte to end the sixth.
Tomlin could not keep the embers smoldering in the seventh. He allowed a leadoff double to Drew Butera, and despite it being a one-run game, was left in to face lefty-hitting pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia, as well as lefty-hitting Charlie Blackmon. The former popped out, but the latter hit a hard grounder into right to make it 5-3 Rockies. The Braves then pulled Tomlin in favor of a different righty (why?), Chad Sobotka, who got two scary but nonetheless harmless flyouts from the Story-Arenado tandem.
Seung-Hwan Oh retired the Braves in the bottom of the seventh, yielding just a single to Albies. Things actually looked really promising for the Braves for about two seconds, as Josh Donaldson teed off on an Oh pitch and mashed it to center... he stopped to admire it... and then shook his head in frustration as Ian Desmond (who, we should remember, was signed by the Rockies to play first base, once upon at time) made a leaping grab at the center field fence.
Then, the augh moment of the night began... or continued, I guess. Jesse Biddle came on, and surrendered a single to Murphy. Dahl then hit a chip shot around the left-field foul line, which was inexplicably touched and then mishandled by Donaldson, putting runners on first and second with none out. Ian Desmond then hit a ball back to Biddle, which bounced around off his various body parts. Biddle took too long to recover and find a good place to throw the ball, and everybody was safe. A much more routine single by Ryan McMahon made it 7-3 Rockies, and Jacob Webb allowed the eighth Colorado run to score when pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning. The Braves went down in order to Scott Oberg in the eighth.
In the ninth, Bryse Wilson came out of the bullpen for the first time since his recall five days ago, and went 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Story. The Rockies sent former starter Chad Bettis in to close out the five-run game, but he couldn’t do so. Tyler Flowers greeted him with his second dinger of the night, a looping blast into the left-field corner. With two outs, Albies rolled another single into center, and Bettis hit Donaldson with a pitch, an act that got him relieved of his duties in favor of Colorado closer Wade Davis. Freddie Freeman had a chance to reach and bring up Acuña as the tying run... but he struck out swinging on a cutter to end the game.
The Braves actually managed to walk not a single hitter in this game, but it didn’t matter. instead of walks, they yielded seven extra-base hits and five additional singles. They reached base more than the Rockies (ten hits, three walks, a hit-by-pitch), but only managed four extra-base hits in the process.
The game was Tyler Flowers’ first four-hit game in over three years (April 19, 2016), and his first two-homer game as a Brave (the last one came in September 2014). Nick Markakis and Ozzie Albies also reached base three times each, but with Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. going 0-for-8 with a walk, the Braves could not match Colorado’s offensive avalanche. The Braves fall below .500 for the third time this year, but remain in third place as the Nationals failed to mount a second comeback against the Padres and lost 4-3 earlier in the night.
Mike Foltynewicz will make his 2019 debut for the Braves tomorrow. Stay tuned, and hope the Braves can get back to .500 once again.