This is a tough game to recap. The early and middle portions of it were defined by the Braves showing little urgency on the pitching and defensive side, as tactical missteps and defensive mistakes put them in a hole. In the later innings, playing from behind, the Braves had ample chances to take the lead and break the game open... but they didn’t. Down 5-1 headed into the final frame, they put together a rally capped off Austin Riley’s mammoth two-run homer to bring them within a run... but Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario both struck out to send Atlanta to a 7-10 record and an 0-3-2 record in series headed into April’s final week. Oh well.
The early game featured little scoring, as Jesus Luzardo mowed down Braves batters while Bryce Elder sashayed in and out of trouble. After striking out two in a perfect first, Elder ended up loading the bases with two outs in the second (walk, double, walk) before getting Jacob Stallings to ground out. Elder walked two more in the third, but got Jesus Sanchez to hit into a first-pitch double play to end that frame. The fourth added some defensive problems to Elder’s control issues, as the Braves (Austin Riley, Elder himself, Dansby Swanson) misplayed three straight balls, followed by a walk to Stallings to once again loaded the bases. The Braves (inexplicably, showing little urgency) left Elder in to face Jazz Chisholm Jr. for the third time, and for once, the ball-in-play gods showed mercy to the Braves, as Chisholm’s wounded duck flare went right to Ozzie Albies at second instead of somewhere else where it would’ve scored a couple of runs.
The Braves, though, did not seem satisfied with that escape from the jaws of calamity. Elder, despite having five in the game already, somehow went back out for the top of the fifth with Miami’s 2-3-4 due up for a third time. He promptly started the inning with... another walk, his sixth of the afternoon. That also wasn’t enough to get him yanked. Nor was Avisail Garcia breaking the tie on a barreled ball to left-center... one that should’ve been caught, thanks to the new baseball/humidor/Rob Manfred’s outfield forcefield, if not for the misadventures of Orlando Arcia in left field. Arcia took an awful route to the ball and had it pop out of the heel of his glove near the wall, giving Miami a 1-0 advantage. Yet, Elder continued to stay in, and it quickly became 2-0 as Garrett Cooper lashed a grounder up the middle. Apparently that was enough for the Braves to remove Elder from the game, when the six walks and the near-two-run-homer weren’t. It also resulted in the Braves inserting righty Darren O’Day to face the lefty-batting Joey Wendle, but O’Day got out of that frame with no further trouble.
Luzardo cruised through four frames, striking out seven while allowing just a walk and two doubles, both to Riley. In the fifth, though, he kind of ran out of steam, issuing three walks in four batters to start the inning. That brought up Matt Olson with the bases packed and one out, and unfortunately, Olson hit a 50-50 grounder that was eventually fielded at first. It was 2-1 now, and in a good example of the perils of sequencing, Riley got to face Luzardo a third time (the Marlins aren’t the only team mismanaging game situations like this) but struck out on a high sinker to end the inning.
O’Day’s sixth started with a triple and then a sac fly, negating the Braves’ sole run from the prior frame. A.J. Minter came on and retired the next two batters; Cody Poteet relieved Luzardo in the bottom of the inning and worked around a two-out walk. Minter then bled a couple runs of his own, as Jorge Soler (a righty facing the lefty Minter) started the inning with a double off the wall and scored on Cooper’s (another righty) two-out double. Minter then gave up a bloop no-man’s-land double to Wendle, and it was 5-1 Miami.
The game got even more frustrating for the Braves thereafter. They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, forcing Miami to swap to their third pitcher of the inning, Anthony Bass, to face Riley with the bases loaded and one out. Bass threw one pitch, a sinker belt-high on the inner edge, and Riley hit a picture-perfect double play ball to short. He was the tying run, and instead, the Braves were out of the inning. The Braves started the eighth with back-to-back hitters reaching as well, but pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario and Swanson struck out while Manny Piña grounded out to stifle that threat.
That left just one more chance for Atlanta, and they tried. They really tried. It didn’t happen, though. Travis Demeritte got the inning started against Tanner Scott by reaching on a strikeout. Ozzie Albies followed with a double, and Matt Olson hit a 50-50 liner into right that of course didn’t drop, just going for a sacrifice fly. That brought up Riley, and this time he did that thing that would’ve been way cooler in the seventh, hitting an absolute no-doubter on a hanging slider that made it a 5-4 game. That was it for Scott, who was replaced by Louis Head. Marcell Ozuna greeted Head with a hard double to center, putting the elusive tying run on second. But, no dice anywhere: Adam Duvall struck out on a slider low, and Rosario struck out on a fastball high. The Braves are 7-10.
In the end, the Braves showed little urgency with setting up their pitching slate to get advantages. The most laughable moment of the game was likely when Tyler Matzek, who didn’t appear in yesterday’s high-leverage-fest of a loss, randomly appeared in this game to strike out a batter when the score differential was four runs. As we’ve seen many times before the game was managed on the idea that the offense would simply bail out whatever the pitching and defense bled... and it almost did. But it didn’t, and here we are. The Braves fall to 4-5 on the season in games they’ve outhomered their opponents, and this will likely be yet another game (one of way too many) that the Braves lost despite out-xwOBAing their opposition. These trends might reverse at some point, and it’ll be more fun when it does, but it just isn’t that fun right now. See you Tuesday, when the Cubs come to town.