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Bullpen fails Braves in 5-3 loss to Rockies

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Recapping the series opener.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the abject weirdness associated with Wednesday evening’s game, the Atlanta Braves entered a weekend set with the Colorado Rockies riding a five-game winning streak. To make things even more interesting, Atlanta’s chief competition in the NL East lost a game by 20 (yes, 20) runs on Thursday afternoon, setting the stage for what could be a “grand slam” day for Brian Snitker and company. That rosy outlook did not come to fruition, however, as the Braves coughed up a late lead on the way to a streak-busting, 5-3 defeat.

The evening began in encouraging fashion, with Teheran retiring the first three batters using only eight pitches. Given that the veteran right-hander hasn’t been particularly adept early in outings this season, that was a welcome surprise and, shortly thereafter, additional theatrics ensued.

Ronald Acuña, making a surprising start just hours after a CT scan on his elbow, led off Atlanta’s night with a single after a standing ovation from the assembled masses at SunTrust Park. Acuña then stole second base and, while he was stranded after a double play off the bat of Nick Markakis, it was simply fun to see the youngster out there and continuing his scalding hot streak.

As for plays that dented the scoreboard, Teheran had less success in the second inning. He allowed a lead-off single, which was followed by a walk. After a sacrifice fly placed runners at the corners, the Rockies scored first on another sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead.

Quickly, Kurt Suzuki erased the deficit with a solo home run in the bottom of the second but the Rockies then inched ahead with a solo shot of their own in the top of the third. From there, all was quiet until the bottom of the fifth frame, when Atlanta’s offense engineered some fireworks.

Suzuki and Dansby Swanson combined for back-to-back doubles to plate the tying run and Teheran helped himself a great deal with an RBI single of his own. That brought Swanson (using his impressive speed on the base paths) across to give the Braves a 3-2 lead and, for the first time, Atlanta held the advantage.

At the end of seven innings, that 3-2 lead was in tact and that is a credit to Teheran. Though the 27-year-old hasn’t been dominant this season, this was the second straight quality outing for Teheran, as he navigated seven frames while allowing only three hits and two walks. Teheran also struck out seven and, despite some shaky moments, it was a heartening performance.

Luke Jackson relieved Teheran to begin the eighth inning and things got dicey and uncomfortable. After producing two outs, Jackson allowed two runners to reach base, setting the stage for a showdown with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado with the game on the line. Mercifully, Jackson emerged with a strikeout to end the inning but, in short, it felt like a case in which results prevailed despite incoherent process.

After the Braves failed to provide additional insurance in the bottom of the eighth, it was Brad Brach that got the call in the ninth with the game in the balance. That decision seemingly came as a result of heavy usage for A.J. Minter in recent days (and may have played into the decision to deploy Jackson in the previous inning) and, in the end, Brach wasn’t able to slam the door and preserve the margin.

The closing frame did begin ominously when Swanson committed a (very) costly error to allow the lead-off man to reach base and Brach issued a walk to place runners on first and second without recording an out. Brach did generate a strikeout to provide a sliver of optimism but a single through the right side knotted the game at 3-3. Then, the floodgates opened a bit in the form of a two-run single and the Braves were suddenly staring a 5-3 defeat in the face.

Atlanta did have the opportunity to come back with a chance in the bottom of the ninth and things began favorably with a lead-off single from Freddie Freeman. Markakis then struck out (with Freeman advancing to second) and any thought of a comeback evaporated with a strikeout from Johan Camargo and a lineout from Ender Inciarte.

Offensively, the positive story of the evening was Suzuki, who produced two of the biggest hits of the game and scored two of the team’s three runs. With a hat-tip to Swanson for another important contribution (prior to his ill-timed error in the ninth), it was nice to see Suzuki “break out” a bit in this spot, even if the final result wasn’t favorable.

The Braves and Rockies will continue their four-game set with another match-up on Friday, when Sean Newcomb faces off against Kyle Freeland. Stay tuned.