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Despite rallies, Braves’ win streak snapped at nine with 6-5, extra-inning loss

The Braves couldn’t quite eke out a win on Independence Day despite two homers from Ozzie Albies

Atlanta Braves v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Well, you can’t win ‘em all, though the Braves certainly tried to do so. The result: a 6-5, extra-inning loss in Cleveland, despite Ozzie Albies hitting two key homers, and the Braves electing to pitch Raisel Iglesias a third straight day to hang in there and extend their streak. The Braves’ offense once again turned what felt like a bit of a mismatch on paper into a winnable game, but the bullpen B-squad ran into some ball-in-play issues and things fell apart late in the tenth.

The reason why this game seemed like a bit of a mismatch was the Kolby-Allard/Shane Bieber matchup. That, combined with playing on the road, made it just the 13th game all season in which the Braves weren’t favored. In the early going, things played to the script, though that ended up changing fairly rapidly.

The Braves couldn’t convert a great scoring chance in the first, as walk-catcher’s interference-strike-outwalk loaded the bases for Travis d’Arnaud. Bieber did a nice job bamboozling the Braves’ catcher, throwing the kitchen sink at him first (cutter, slider, curve) before freezing him with a fastball well in the zone for a strikeout. Marcell Ozuna then followed with essentially a 50-50 liner to right for the third out. Allard worked a 1-2-3 first with two strikeouts on elevated four-seamers, and then a groundout on a nifty diving play by Austin Riley that robbed Jose Ramirez of a hit.

In the second, Bieber cruised, while Allard got three more outs in a row despite a deep barrel by Josh Bell that was caught at the center field wall by a jumping Michael Harris II. Despite walking Albies with one out, Bieber escaped the third with a double play ball. Allard then got into his first real mess, as a wacky leadoff single (infield flare that Matt Olson couldn’t quite catch nor throw accurately to first to retire the batter) and a two-out seeing-eye single put two on with two out. Up came Amed Rosario, who was a victim of a high four-seamer strikeout earlier in the game, and the limitations of Allard’s approach stung him and the Braves, as he got waaayyyy too fastball-heavy and grooved one on 2-2. Rosario mashed it into left-center for a two-run Cleveland lead. The Braves got two on in the top of the fourth, but Bieber struck out Orlando Arcia to end that inning.

The Braves finally struck in the fifth, thanks to, all together now: the third time through the order. With one out, Ronald Acuña Jr. singled, and then Albies unloaded:

That was actually the second in a chain of five consecutive batters to reach base against Bieber the third time through, culminating in a d’Arnaud flare into left center that scored the go-ahead run. Ozuna broke that chain by lining out, but then Eddie Rosario doubled to left, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead and chasing Bieber.

Allard then had no trouble getting through the bottom of the fifth, but got stung in his own brief foray into the third time through, because Cleveland’s Rosario crushed a 1-0 changeup over the wall in left to make it 4-3. That immediately yoinked Allard from the game in favor of Collin McHugh, who got through the rest of the frame without letting the game be tied.

Instead, that dishonor would befall Kirby Yates’ time on the mound, in the seventh. Yates didn’t really do much wrong other than fail to strike guys out — it’s just that when you’re playing Cleveland, whose batters have almost no pop (last in MLB in homers) but also rarely strike out (second-lowest strikeout rate) or even walk (sixth-lowest walk rate) sometimes you just get BABIPed. Basically, what happened to Yates and the Braves was:

  • Weakly hit (81 mph) flare leadoff single;
  • Steal, then a groundout;
  • A hard-hit but easy-to-catch lineout to left;
  • A dunker flare down the right-field line that Acuña couldn’t get to in time, tying the game; followed by
  • Rosario rolling a single through the right side for a 5-4 lead.

The Braves tried to respond in the eighth as Arcia hit a leadoff single off Trevor Stephan, but Harris bounced into a double play and Acuña flew out in a 3-1 count. The fireworks instead came in the ninth, again courtesy of Albies, who tied the game by taking fireballer Emmanuel Clase deep to right:

That was pretty much the end of stuff to celebrate Braves-wise tonight, though. Clase got the next three outs in order, and after Nick Anderson breezed through the bottom of the ninth, it was time for wacky baseball in the tenth.

The Braves got first crack at pushing a run across, but couldn’t. Ozuna started the frame against Enyel de los Santos by barreling a ball to center, but it didn’t strike anything but Myles Straw’s glove. The deep out pushed pinch-runner Sam Hilliard to third, but all Eddie Rosario could do was hit a two-strike flare to Straw, who caught the ball and threw home on the run in plenty of time to gun down Hilliard. Two of the Braves’ most recent five losses have now come directly as a result of Hilliard getting thrown out at home in extra innings on a ball hit to the outfield by Rosario, which is kind of silly.

The bottom of the tenth featured something kind of weird: the Braves asked Raisel Iglesias to come in and pitch a third day in a row. For a team that is essentially histrionic about how and when it chooses (not) to deploy its high-leverage relievers, it was at the least an unexpected move. It almost paid dividends, too, in a super-weird way.

The Braves intentionally walked Ramirez to start the frame, and then pinch-hitter Gabriel Arias, who came in as a defensive substitution for Bell in the ninth, tried to bunt the runners over. What Arias actually did, though, was bunt into a weirdo 1-6-4 double play, as Iglesias scooped up the ball and fired to second, with the relay from Arcia to Albies successful at retiring Arias at first. It was probably one of the best defensive plays given the context we’ll see from the Braves all year...

...which made it extra-lame that a few pitches later, David Fry cranked a deep drive to left off an Iglesias sinker that wasn’t even a strike (and that he had swung through the pitch before). Eddie Rosario couldn’t catch up the ball and it landed on the warning track, snapping the Braves’ nine-game winning streak.

Loss aside, probably the lamest part of this game was Allard being unable to replicate his season debut. He was way too fastball-heavy again (over 50 percent) and not really generating whiffs. A 3/1 K/BB ratio with a homer in five innings is probably way more in line with what Allard should be expected to do given his track record, but there was the hope that he was actually going to adjust his pitch mix. Ah well.

The Braves will look to start another streak tomorrow evening in Cleveland as the series wraps up, with Michael Soroka facing Cal Quantrill in what could be another shootout.

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