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Fried, Braves can’t hang with Kirby’s Air Ride, lose 3-1

Max Fried allowed two homers and the Braves weren’t the team to snap George Kirby’s streak of incredibly awesome pitching as they fell out of the NL East lead with a loss that snapped their winning streak.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, you’re the team that hits a bunch of homers in a win. Sometimes, you’re the team whose fly balls don’t do much of anything while you get outhomered 2-0, and lose a close game to drop out of the NL East lead... for the moment. Sometimes, that last thing even happens when you’re riding an eight-game winning streak. It happens!

This game started out as a pretty cool duel between the extremely-effective pitching of Max Fried and George Kirby. Through four innings, both hurlers allowed just a couple of singles — Fried’s both came in the first but led to no damage, while Kirby erased one on a double play in the first, and stranded the other on second after a stolen base. After Kirby’s 1-2-3 fifth, however, the Mariners struck first when Sam Haggerty guessed very right on a first-pitch slider (?) and smashed it into left field for a long home run. In the sixth, it was kind of a repeat: the Braves again went 1-2-3 against Kirby, and with two outs, Eugenio Suarez destroyed a first-pitch sinker (again, question mark) to make it 2-0. Fried finished his six frames with a 6/0 K/BB ratio (he did graze a batter at one point, apparently), but those two longballs were the difference in the game.

Kirby started the seventh, where he encountered some trouble that wasn’t his fault. Dansby Swanson led off the frame with a single, and Austin Riley followed with a bouncer to short that should have been an easy double play ball. But, for whatever reason, J.P. Crawford goofed and had the ball bounce past him, putting the tying runs on the corners with none out. That was it for Kirby, whose air ride completely flummoxed the Braves: he had six weakly-hit air balls against him to go with a 6/0 K/BB ratio of his own, continuing his streak of homerless, one-walk-or-fewer starts, which is now at 11.

The Mariners got out of the jam by deploying firethrower Andres Munoz. Matt Olson greeted Munoz with a weak grounder to second that scored Swanson but forced Riley at second. Olson advanced a base on a weird tapper by Travis d’Arnaud that was ruled a groundout at first because d’Arnaud got in the way of a potential throw. The Braves couldn’t tie the game, though, as Munoz eviscerated Michael Harris II with four straight sliders low or below the zone. Harris took the first for a ball, and then had three wacky, “I have no idea what’s going on” swings at the next three to end the frame and the Braves’ chances in this one.

Since the score was not in Atlanta’s favor despite the one-run deficit, it was apparently time for the rear end of the bullpen contingent, so Jesse Chavez came in and ended up extending said deficit. Chavez got two quick outs, but somehow walked pinch-hitter Adam Frazier, and then gave up a crushed low-liner double to Julio Rodriguez that scored Frazier from first.

In the eighth, the Mariners deployed their other now-super-awesome relief arm, Erik Swanson, who retired the side on nine pitches, including two more easy flyouts. Kirby Yates, not to be confused with the other Kirby in this game, worked around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth to keep it a 3-1 game.

The Braves had the top of their order up against Paul Sewald in the ninth, but didn’t do anything. A nubber and then back-to-back four-pitch strikeouts ended the game, dropping the Braves half a game out of first place in the NL East.

This game was played under a pallor of haze from wildfires in the area, and while that might seem appropriate set dressing for the weak offensive effort from Atlanta’s bats in this game, keep in mind that short of Jacob deGrom-directly-to-Edwin Diaz, this game featured probably one of the toughest pitching slates the Braves could face all year. George Kirby, Andres Munoz, Erik Swanson, and Paul Sewald are a pitching force, and the Braves should have an easier path tomorrow against the decidedly not-forceful Marco Gonzales.

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