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Braves blow three leads, lose 7-6 on walkoff homer

It’s always something, and that something is rarely good. Today, it was relief pitching that curdled.

Atlanta Braves v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Sigh. Another day gone by, another recap where the play-by-play really isn’t worth recounting. In this one, the Braves hopped ahead to a 4-0 lead, and then bled it all the way back, with Max Fried being left out arguably too long in the middle innings, and then Kenley Jansen unable to prevent a leadoff walk from scoring to tie the game in the ninth. The Braves went ahead thanks to a defensive misplay in the tenth, but then Darren O’Day couldn’t make the lead stand up. They got a ridiculous gift single to go ahead yet ahead in the 11th, but then Jesse Chavez gave up a mammoth dead-center walkoff homer to Keston Hiura, and hey, the Braves are 17-21 now. Wonderful.

This was supposed to be a marquee pitching matchup between aces Max Fried and Corbin Burnes, but in a series where the prior two games ended 1-0 and 3-0, baseball decided to baseball and had this game end in a 7-6 score. The Braves were befuddled by Burns until rallying with two outs in the third — a hit-by-pitch, a dribbler up the middle that squeaked through, and then after falling behind 0-2, Austin Riley worked the count full and obliterated a pitch into left-center for a three-run homer. Marcell Ozuna followed with a longball of his own, and the Braves, wonder of wonders, had a 4-0 advantage against Burnes and the Brewers.

It didn’t evaporate immediately, but the lead shrunk in the middle innings. The Brewers turned a leadoff walk, a forceout, and then three straight singles into two runs before Fried buckled down and struck out the next two batters to strand the tying runs on base. In the sixth, well into his third trip through the order, Fried gave up a leadoff single and then an RBI double to make it a 4-3 game. Spencer Strider made that lead stand up with an amazing seventh, striking out the side on 11 pitches. Will Smith did the same in the eighth, though his frame featured a one-out walk. And then things got really lame in the ninth, as Kenley Jansen walked pinch-hitting former Brave Jace Peterson to lead off the frame, and with two outs, after getting ahead of Kolten Wong 0-2, gave up a blooped, softly-hit triple down the right-field line to complete the blown lead-ness. Jansen did strand Wong at third, but now it was time for everyone’s least favorite extra innings rule.

Usually, the Braves have trouble scoring in extras, but that didn’t happen here. They just had trouble stopping the Brewers from scoring. With two on and none out in the 10th, Austin Riley rolled to short, but Wong’s relay throw to try and complete the double play was high and popped out of Hiura’s glove. Acuña, who was the ghost runner for the inning, jogged home to give the Braves a 5-4 lead. But, the Braves inexplicably used Darren O’Day to face Christian Yelich to start to bottom of the inning — Yelich singled, and a sacrifice fly tied the game. O’Day was eventually lifted for Chavez, who sent the game to the 11th.

The Braves immediately retook the lead on a pseudo-accidental .010 xBA roller inside the right-field foul line by Travis d’Arnaud. But, that was all they managed, and Hiura took Chavez’ fifth pitch of the bottom of the 11th out to deep center for a game-winner.

The Braves probably can’t afford to keep making the decisions that help them lose games like this over and over, especially when other things aren’t going right either, but it’s unclear what will lead them to change, given that those decisions alone won’t be enough to save them anyway. They need some stuff to go right, including being able to steal wins when they get outplayed, but that just isn’t happening.

As a parting note, this recap would be remiss without mentioning the great work Dansby Swanson did on defense all game, including a nice catch on a pop-up into center that could’ve walked off the game in the ninth. He made multiple nice stops and really bailed out his pitching staff — but as we’ve seen all season, all for naught. Just like Riley’s big homer and a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe things will eventually turn for the Braves. I guess we’ll just keep watching.

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