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Braves plead Nola contendere, drop opener 7-3 to Phils

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Julio Teheran left early and the bullpen couldn’t keep runs off the board late.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For a half-inning, namely the first half inning, this was a really fun game for the Braves and their fans. Then, it stopped being fun. Then, much later, it really stopped being fun. The Braves jumped out to an early 3-0 lead off Aaron Nola, immediately gave that lead back, and then bled some runs late to drop the series opener by a 7-3 final score.

That first half-inning, though, it was really quite something. Ender Inciarte got the offense rolling by drawing a well-fought, eight-pitch walk. Ozzie Albies then blooped in a double to left field that Rhys Hoskins could not quite get to, putting runners on second and third with none out. Freddie Freeman then laced an Aaron Nola pitch into right, scoring Inciarte. Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki popped up on consecutive pitches, threatening to ruin what could have been a big first inning. But then, some more awesome things happened. First, Freddie Freeman decided to try and swipe second after Ronald Acuña Jr. fell behind 0-2. He successfully stole the bag, and Ozzie Albies ran home on the throw, successfully stealing home and giving the Braves a 2-0 advantage. It was the first time a Brave had stolen home since Dan Uggla (?!) in 2012. The Braves weren’t done yet: Acuña the wunderkind decided to tack on another run by demolishing a low liner past shortstop and into the left-center gap. The hit easily scored Freeman, and Acuña motored into second with a double.

Crushed.

That was it as far as fun went, however.

Julio Teheran took the hill and did not look quite right. He issued a six-pitch walk to Cesar Hernandez without breaking a pitch velocity of 88 miles per hour. He then issued a four-pitch free pass to Carlos Santana, with the same lack of zip. Then, whether as a get-me-over attempt or something more sinister, this happened on a 81-mile-per-hour “changeup:”

Thanks to a pickoff, Teheran was able to bounce back and actually navigate the next two innings reasonably well. But, his velocity was still never able to crest the 88 mph plateau, and he departed the game after three frames with what the team officially called tightness in his right upper trapezius muscle.

The wunderkind made another phenomenal play to seal Teheran’s night, robbing Odubel Herrera of another opportunity to torment the Braves:

Meanwhile, Aaron Nola settled right in. He faced just one over the minimum over his next six innings of work, the only blemish being a Nick Markakis two-out double that did not come home to roost. The Braves called on Max Fried to work the middle innings and preserve the tie, and it worked... for a while. Fried managed two scoreless innings with a baserunner in each before the bottom of the sixth saw an uncorking of the tie thanks to, guess who: Odubel Herrera.

Herrera’s second dinger gave the Phillies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Braves actually had a great chance to make some noise against Nola in the top of the seventh, but luck stymied their attempts. Acuña led off the inning with a hard single to center. Dansby Swanson mashed a liner to right field, but it was within range of a whirling Hernandez at second. Hernandez snagged the ball and lobbed it to second, and the relay to throw was a bit wide but still saw Swanson get doubled up as Santana held the bag just long enough at first base. This proved especially irritating because both Ryan Flaherty and pinch-hitter Johan Camargo singled immediately afterwards, but after Gabe Kapler came out to the mound and ended up leaving Nola in the game, Ender Inciarte hit a routine grounder to end the threat.

The Phillies then piled on against new arrival Chase Whitley. A double by J.P. Crawford and then a two-run homer by Jorge Alfaro greeted Whitley, pushing the deficit to 6-3. The Braves managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Acuña in the top of the eighth, thanks to another single by Freeman and a throwing error on a routine grounder off Kurt Suzuki’s bat, but this was not a game for your storybook fantasies: Acuña grounded out to Tommy Hunter.

In the eighth, it was Peter Moylan’s turn to give up a run, as a single, hit by pitch, single sequence led to another RBI for Alfaro. That was essentially that: Hector Neris struck out the side in the ninth, working around a Preston Tucker pinch-hit single in doing so.

Every Braves pitcher gave up at least one run in this one, and all but Moylan gave up a longball. Freeman and Acuña both collected two hits in the losing effort. Nola was on point again, especially after the first. In total, he allowed just eight baserunners over seven frames while striking out four.

These two teams will tangle again tomorrow night, with Mike Foltynewicz set to duel Nick Pivetta (again). Be advised that that’s a weird 6:05 pm EDT start.