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Braves lose 6-4, descent continues

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The Braves take one out of 7 games against the Dodgers in 2014

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves offense actually made a late run on Thursday afternoon but it wasn't enough to overcome Aaron Harang's poor start and Fredi Gonzalez's bullpen management as the Braves lost 6-4. Harang left with one out in the fifth inning after giving up five runs and the offense was stymied early by journeyman Roberto Hernandez. After Harang left the bullpen was effective and the offense came alive but it was too little too late for the Braves to pull out a victory.

Harang gave up runs in four of the five innings he appeared in including the first one. Dee Gordon got things started with a bunt single and then stole his league leading 53rd base. Yasiel Puig continued to torment Atlanta with a single to score Gordon and put the Dodgers up 1-0 before an out was recorded. Harang managed to come back with two flyouts and then he picked off Puig for the third out. This was just a brief respite though and Harang would soon be in trouble again.

Harang got the first two outs of the 2nd inning and should have gotten out of the frame without trouble. However, nothing is ever easy for Aaron Harang as Harang proceeded to walk Miguel Rojas who came into the game with a 65 wRC+. This brought up Drew Butera who has a 68 wRC+ in 2014. Butera took Harang deep for a two run homer to put the Dodgers up 3-0 after two innings. For those in need of context, BJ Upton has a 73 wRC+ this season meaning that the Braves were down 3-0 thanks to two hitters having a worse season than BJ Upton.

The spiral continued in the 3rd when Harang walked Gordon to lead off the inning. Once again Gordon stole second base and moved to third on a Puig sacrifice fly. Gordon came home to score on a Adrian Gonzalez single and the Braves trailed 4-0 after three.

The fourth inning was a brief ray of sunshine for Atlanta. Harang managed a scoreless inning and the Braves got a run back in their half. Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton both walked to get the inning started and there was potential for a big inning. Since this is the 2014 Braves though the big inning never materialized. A Tommy La Stella groundout brought home Freeman but that was all the Braves would get. The game was 4-1 after four innings and the Dodgers would get the run back right away.

The last out Harang managed to get was Dodgers pitcher Roberto Hernandez who led off the 5th inning. Three singles later the Dodgers were back up four runs and Harang was out of the game. David Hale came on and performed admirably to stop the bleeding and give the Braves a chance to stay in the game. Hale got the Braves out of the inning and then pitched the 6th and 7th without allowing any runs.

Thanks to Hale and James Russell the game was still 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th when the Braves finally managed to scrape together a big rally. Emilio Bonafacio singled and Freeman doubled to put two runners in scoring position. Justin Upton came through with a big double to cut the deficit in half with a runner on second and no outs. Justin moved to third on a Chris Johnson sac fly but had to come out of the game with a hamstring issue. Justin was replaced by his brother BJ. Tommy La Stella struck out but Andrelton Simmons knocked in BJ to make the game 5-4 and a comeback was now a real possibility. Evan Gattis struck out to end the inning but the game was in reach.

Now with the game finally in reach Fredi Gonzalez brought on his worst relief pitcher in Luis Avilan to hold the game at 5-4. Avilan proceeded to do exactly what would be expected of him as he tried to get through the heart of the Dodgers order and failed. An Adrian Gonzalez double scored Gordon and the Dodgers had an invaluable insurance run. After allowing Avilan to face Crawford, Gordon, Puig, and Gonzalez the Braves manager removed Avilan before allowing him to face Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with two outs. Fredi Gonzalez's management of the situation can only be described as baffling but also inevitable. The Braves now needed two runs in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game.

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman did their best to bring Atlanta back but their efforts were in vain. Heyward singled with one out and Freeman smoked a double with two outs to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. If the Braves had been down one they could have tried to let Heyward score on Freeman's double but since the deficit was two runs they had to hold up Heyward. This brought up BJ Upton with two outs and the tying runs on base. Upton struck out and the game was over. The Braves lost 6-4 and continue their free fall away from the playoffs.