Like many recent Atlanta Braves games, the offense started tonight’s series opening contest against the San Francisco Giants on a roll. Unfortunately, the pitching could not contain the Giants’ bats and the offense could not cash in a key hit when needed, and the Braves fell by a 9-4 score, snapping their five-game winning streak.
The first inning was fun, even if the others weren’t. Mike Foltynewicz had a bit of an adventure, allowing a one-out walk and single, but got a pop-up from Brandon Belt and a hard grounder off the bat of Evan Longoria to second to end the threat. Then, the bats took over against Chris Stratton. Ozzie Albies started the game with a liner to center and moved to second when center fielder Austin Jackson booted the ball. Albies moved to third on a hot smash into deep right center by Ronald Acuña Jr. that Jackson somehow managed to flag down, and then was able to trot home when Freddie Freeman demolished a high Stratton fastball into the left field seats for a monster two-run homer. After a Nick Markakis groundout, new arrival Jose Bautista got his first hit in a Braves uniform, hitting a double over Jackson’s head. Tyler Flowers struck out swinging, but the Braves gave Folty a two-run cushion to work with...
...which he promptly punctured. Foltynewicz really struggled with his slider command in this one, having it miss out of the zone again and again while hitters were able to fend off his fastball. The second inning started with a single and a walk, and then Foltynewicz missed badly with a 2-1 slider that didn’t run too wide of the zone but stayed perfectly hittable for Gregor Blanco, who smashed in into the right field corner for a two-run triple. Stratton, the Giants’ pitcher, struck out, but then Alen Hanson hit another high slider down the third-base line for a run-scoring double. The Giants weren’t done yet, feasting on Foltynewicz pitches that were rapidly changing from a gameplan to a set of get-me-over desperation attempts. Andrew McCutchen knocked a grooved fastball to right, putting runners at the corners. Then, Foltynewicz got a bit of a gift as Buster Posey hit a chopper to third. Jose Bautista fielded the ball and threw home to cut down Hanson, but Flowers’ tag was late and the initial out call at the plate was overturned on replay challenge, giving the Giants a 4-2 advantage. That precipitated a Belt double on an inside fastball (5-2) and a Longoria groundout that scored the inning’s sixth run.
After that, Stratton took over and snake-charmed the Atlanta bats into some doldrums. Nick Markakis broke up some of the monotony with a third-inning solo blast to left center that made it 6-3, but other than that, the Braves just could not manage anything. They got two walks in the fourth but Ozzie Albies grounded out; Tyler Flowers reached on a one-out single in the sixth but Johan Camargo promptly hit into a double play. Overall, Stratton finished with six innings, six hits, two walks, three runs, and six strikeouts in his final line.
Mike Foltynewicz actually recovered his composure somewhat after the second, even though the bullpen was warming up before he was able to complete that nightmare inning. He only allowed three additional singles over the next three frames, with no walks and three strikeouts. His final line was still poor, with five innings of nine-hit, two-walk, six-run ball with only four strikeouts, but it was a lot better than it could have been given that he almost got knocked out of the game after retiring just four batters. It was the most runs he had allowed in a start since August 21 of last year.
The Braves went to the bullpen in the sixth, using Peter Moylan for a scoreless frame that involved a leadoff single, a pickoff, a one-out walk, and a double play. Jesse Biddle replaced Moylan in the seventh and lengthened the deficit as Brandon Crawford lined an absolutely hang-em-and-bang-em slider over the short porch in right field for a two-run homer that made it 8-3 in San Francisco’s favor. The Braves got a run back in the bottom of the inning thanks to a pinch-hit single by Charlie Culberson, a fielding error that let him take second, and then two consecutive fly outs that allowed him to trot home. Still, it wasn’t enough. Max Fried worked the final two innings, allowing a looping line drive opposite field homer to Evan Longoria in the ninth to cap the scoring.
The Braves wasted a lot of opportunities in this game, as they scored just four runs despite getting seven hits, three walks, and three errors by the Giants’ defenders, as a couple of double plays (including one in the ninth) cut down some potential rallies. Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Sam Dyson closed out the game for the Giants, allowing just one hit, one run (unearned), and one walk. While every Braves hitter but Ronald Acuña Jr. reached base at least once, the hits and walks were too spread out. It happens.
Jose Bautista went 1-for-4 with a double and two strikeouts in his debut. He made one pretty good play at the hot corner and started an effective double play, but was part of the failed conversion of the fielder’s choice into an out at home, and arguably failed to make another play on a slow roller that seemed reasonably doable. It remains to be seen what the plan is at third base going forward, but Johan Camargo seems likely to draw the majority of starts at shortstop during Dansby Swanson’s absence.
The Braves will attempt to start a new winning streak and even the series tomorrow night, when Ty Blach faces Brandon McCarthy.