Well, serves me right for talking about how all sorts of balls were going to leave the yard in the preview for this game. Instead, just two balls left the yard, but one of them was the dagger in the heart of the beleaguered Braves as they dropped their third straight game.
When you combine Bronson Arroyo (second-worst pitcher in baseball coming into this game), the powerful Cincinnati offense, Mike Foltynewicz, and one of the most homer-friendly parks in MLB, you figure a lot of runs were going to score. Instead, the game was anything but.
The Braves got their first baserunner in the top of the third in the form of Adonis Garcia, who was making his first start since returning from the DL. Garcia singled, moved to second on a Dansby Swanson single, moved to third on a Mike Foltynewicz sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an Ender Inciarte sacrifice fly.
Another good scoring chance graced the Braves in the fourth, as Matt Kemp hit a one-out double. Then, with two outs and runners on first and second, Adonis Garcia bounced a ball up the middle that was fielded by former Braves farmhand Jose Peraza, whose throw to first was quite late. However, Kemp never stopped running around the bases and was easily cut down on a throw home, prematurely ending the threat.
Swanson hit a leadoff homer on a silly hanging Arroyo curveball to give the Braves their second run in the top of the fifth, and that was all the offense would muster. They continued to get runners on base, collecting 12 hits in all, but could not push any more across against Arroyo or the Cincinnati relief corps.
Meanwhile, the dynamic trio of Mike Foltynewicz, Tyler Flowers, and home plate umpire Mike Winters kept the Reds attack at bay. Folty cruised through seven innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters. He got eight groundouts to just two flyouts, which is a pretty safe strategy given the cozy confines of the venue. The Reds only got a runner to second base once while he was in the game, and that was thanks to an Arroyo sacrifice bunt.
He did get a fair bit of help from Flowers and Winters, though, as you can see on this strike zone map.
That’s a lot of red dots nowhere near the zone. Of Foltynewicz’ 10 strikeouts, two were fairly egregious called strike threes, one was a borderline pitch that really could have gone either way, and one was a swinging strikeout set up by a fairly bad call. Still, it was a dominant outing from Foltynewicz, and very welcome after his recent stretch of struggles, including a very poor start last time out in San Francisco. (Foltynewicz allowed two homers to a terrible Giants lineup in a pitcher-friendly park, and zero home runs to this Reds lineup in the Great American Small Park. Go Figure.)
What wasn’t welcome, however, was the Atlanta bullpen implosion. Arodys Vizcaino got into a bit of hot water in the eighth by issuing a leadoff walk, but managed to keep the Reds off the board. Jim Johnson, however, was not quite so fortunate, allowing back-to-back doubles to Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez to start the ninth inning. Johnson appeared to have recovered, striking out Scott Schebler and then getting a soft groundout from Peraza, but with two outs, his first pitch to Tucker Barnhart bounced in the dirt and was not corralled by Flowers, allowing the speedy Suarez to score the tying run. Barnhart would later hit a weak groundout to send the game into extras.
The Braves just missed a go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, as Nick Markakis took Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias deep to left field. However, Markakis had to settle for a single as Adam Duvall played the bounce of the wall perfectly, and the Braves right fielder was erased off the base paths when Matt Kemp promptly hit into a double play.
Jose Ramirez was summoned to work the bottom of the 10th against Devin Mesoraco, who was double-switched in during the top half of the inning. Ramirez got Mesoraco into a 2-2 count and then grooved a 99 mph fastball, which Mesoraco drilled into left center for a walkoff homer.
The Braves blew a win expectancy of over 90 percent in the loss. Not much more to say. Perhaps they’ll prevail tomorrow, as R.A. Dickey will face off against Scott Feldman. Maybe baseball will make more sense then, but probably not.