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Braves fade quietly in frustrating series loss to Athletics

If this is a blip, then this is one nasty-looking blip!

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves are now one game away from getting swept by the Oakland Athletics. With help from an error on a ground ball from Austin Riley, the A's picked up their second straight win after having lost 11 straight games, with both wins coming against the Braves.

This was another night where it ended up turning into The Bryce Elder Show on the mound despite his overall stuff not being obviously imposing. Instead, Elder continued what’s been his M.O. for this season where he does give up hard contact but mitigates any damage that he may receive in any given inning.

That’s how Elder found himself getting into the eighth inning for the first time this season. Elder gave up five hits and walked a pair of batters but he also struck out five batters and only gave up one run while he was out there. That run came in the fifth inning, which is when the A’s strung together three singles with Esteury Ruiz’s ground ball to the left side of the diamond to give Oakland their first run of the game. Other than that, Bryce Elder was extremely effective on the mound and once again provided a calming and sturdy presence to the rotation following a rough outing on Monday.

The main problem was that the Braves were once again ice cold at the plate, as they were unable to really figure out what JP Sears or Austin Pruitt had to offer in this one. Part of that may have been due to a bit of rotten luck on batted balls (don’t look at the xBA comparison if you value your sanity) but for some reason, the Braves spent the vast majority of their first two games in the Oakland Coliseum largely dormant at the plate.

The lone exception was a home run from Kevin Pillar in the third inning. Pillar was able to pull a fastball on the lower inside corner and just barely kept it fair — to the point where it hit off the foul pole for a solo homer. The obvious hope was that this was going to be the spark for the Braves at the plate, but that ended up being all she wrote as far as offense was concerned for Atlanta in this one.

The game was still 1-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, which is when the usually-reliable Raisel Iglesias pitched himself into a bases-loaded jam after walking three batters. Despite the mess, Iglesias still could've found a way out of the jam or at least towards the second out after he induced a ground ball to third base off the bat of Jonah Bride. Unfortunately, Austin Riley booted the grounder and the run scored from third and the Braves dropped the series to the Athletics.

Needless to say, that was an absolutely woeful performance from everybody not named Bryce Elder, A.J. Minter and Kevin Pillar. It's somewhat understandable to struggle against any team on any given night. With that being said, Atlanta's offense being moribund for a second night in a row against a pitching staff that is the worst in baseball in terms of both ERA- and FIP- and averaging around seven runs allowed per game was absolutely inexcusable.

This could very well just be a weird blip that we're all laughing about by the time the end of the season rolls around but right now, it was incredibly frustrating to watch play out. Hopefully the Braves can finally wake up in this series and find a way to not suffer what would be an embarrassing sweep against a team that has not been playing well at all until just now.

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