When you're playing against a team that has a Cy Young winner who is still pitching at the height of his powers, you can't really afford to make mistakes because if you do and you happen to give said pitcher the lead, then you're going to be in a heap trouble from that point forward. However, when you're in the throes of a now 7-game losing streak, trouble seems to find you, and that's exactly what happened in this one, as an awful 4th inning doomed the Braves to unlucky loss #7 in a row.
Things actually started out about as well as you could hope for against King Felix; In the top of the 2nd, Justin Upton led off that inning with a liner that bounced over the left field wall for a ground rule double. After that, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis both struck out and you began to get the feeling that this was going to end up being yet another runner stranded. But nope, Chris Johnson flipped the script on everybody and hit a liner to left, bringing in Upton for the game's first run. Yes, you read that correctly: Chris Johnson got the best of Felix Hernandez for a moment.
That moment ended up being a fleeting one, as the Braves wouldn't score again until Felix left the game after the 8th inning. Meanwhile, Seattle scored all 4 runs that they would need to win in the 4th inning, and how they did it was extremely frustrating if you were rooting for the subjects of this website. After starting the 4th inning off nicely enough by forcing Kendrys Morales to ground out, Alex Wood hit Kyle Seager in the back to put him on base. Chris Denorfia then grounded one into center field to put Seager on 2nd. Logan Morrison came up and the 66 wRC+ hitter rolled one into left field for his 19th RBI of the season to tie the game up. Adding insult to injury, Andrelton Simmons left the game after this play with an ankle injury after he apparently landed on 3rd base awkwardly while trying to cover it. Dave O'Brien is reporting that he'll miss tomorrow's game in hopes of being ready for the weekend series against Washington.
Alex Wood then struck out Mike Zunino to give the Braves a bit of hope that maybe they'd get out of this with the game still tied. That hope was close to being fufilled when Wood managed to get Chris Taylor to pop up to shallow right field. In an Uggla-esque moment, Tommy La Stella got under the pop fly, then the ball hit his glove and popped right out. LoMo and Denorfia both scored, making it 3-1, and Austin Jackson poked one into center field to make it 4-1. There was a lot of blame being handed out to Jason Heyward for not calling off TLS, but the fact of the matter is that if the ball hits the middle of your glove in a situation that is pretty standard and routine, you have to make that catch. But, this is the type of thing that happens when you're in an abysmal losing streak like this one. Bad stuff just tends to happen and this was a prime example of it.
After being generously handed a 3-run lead to play with, Felix Hernandez went into cruise control after that. He proceeded to retire the next 12 Braves he faced, and left the game after the 8th inning with a typical King Felix line of 8 IP, 4 H allowed, 1 ER, 8 Ks, and only 1 BB. I say "typical" because this was the 15th straight time that Felix pitched 7 or more innings and allowed 2 or less runs. When that's a "typical" line for you, then you are a maestro.
After Felix sawed through the Braves' lineup, it was Fernando Rodney's turn to close things down in the 9th. Naturally, the Braves bats woke up with the change of pitcher, as TLS led off the inning with a double. Two productive outs from Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton later, TLS made it home and the lead was cut to 2. Jason Heyward then hit a blooper into left to bring up Evan Gattis, which meant that there was hope that maybe Gattis could blast one over the fence to tie the game up. As you know by now, that didn't happen: Gattis struck out to end the game and extend the losing streak to 7.
Felix Hernandez is already one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball. He's good enough where he doesn't need the other team giving him help, and yet that's exactly what happened tonight. This is the type of stuff that tends to happen when teams are going through a rough patch. One error basically wrecked the game for the Braves tonight, and they're now one loss away from going 0-for the entire west coast road trip, which would put a wretched end to what has turned out to be an absolutely disastrous Western road trip.