For much of Memorial Day, it appeared that the Atlanta Braves would earn the right to celebrate with a road victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Alas, the bullpen failed the rest of the club on Monday evening, and the final result was a 6-3 defeat for the visiting squad.
The night (and the road trip) began in ominous fashion, as starting pitcher Williams Perez ran into trouble in the first inning. Perez allowed a run after a hit-by-pitch and a walk, but fortunately, he escaped further damage after inducing a pop-out from Scott Van Slyke.
Later, Van Slyke would again aid in Perez's quest for a positive outing, as the outfielder inexplicably grounded into a double play in the third inning while having the green light in a 3-0 count. That allowed the 24-year-old Perez to post an outing in which he allowed just one run in six innings of work, and with seven strikeouts against just one walk, it was another encouraging performance.
Alas, it would be irresponsible to not mention another "influence" on Perez's stat line, as Jace Peterson made the play of the game in support of his pitcher during the botched third-inning rally by the Dodgers.
On the offensive side of things, Fredi Gonzalez looked like a genius with a late lineup scratch. Gonzalez inserted Pedro Ciriaco for Alberto Callaspo at third base just minutes before first pitch (amid unclear circumstances), and Ciriaco responded with two hits in his first two plate appearances, including an RBI single in the fourth inning that plated Atlanta's first run. Later, Freddie Freeman singled through a shift by the Dodgers (with some help from ugly defense by Howie Kendrick), and the Braves held a 2-1 lead before Williams Perez departed.
Enter the bullpen.
Luis Avilan, who had admittedly been performing quite well in the recent past, made a mess of the seventh inning, allowing the Dodgers to tie the game. The left-hander issued two walks and a single, and if not for a wonderful defensive play by Ciriaco at third base, the damage would have been worse than the true result of just one run crossing the plate.
It wasn't just Avilan, though, who allowed damage out of the bullpen, as the fatal blow came against the newly-acquired Nick Masset in the eighth inning. Masset surrendered a solo home run to Andre Ethier to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, and later in the frame, he allowed a two-run home run to Alex Guerrero that busted the game open for Los Angeles. The onslaught continued with a third home run to Jimmy Rollins, and it was the first time in Masset's career that he allowed three blasts in a single game.
With a 4-run deficit, the Braves failed to fully respond in their only remaining at-bat (though they did scratch a single run across), and Atlanta began the series with a 6-3 defeat on Memorial Day. There were plenty of positives, including two-hit games from the aforementioned Ciriaco, Jonny Gomes and Freddie Freeman to go along with the strong showing from Williams Perez, but two bullpen arms conspired to remove the optimistic tone on this holiday.
The Braves and Dodgers will get together again on Tuesday night for late-night action. Stay tuned.