After blowing a six-run lead in a comically bad eighth inning and then having a moment of bliss by taking the lead back in the bottom of that same inning, the Braves managed to give up a two-run home run to a player who had not appeared in a major league game in nearly one calendar year in order to suffer what has to be the worst loss of the season.
This was such a bad loss because things started out so well for the Braves. In fact, we had the best omen of all, which is a leadoff home run from Ronald Acuña Jr. That was his eighth leadoff dinger of the season and it put him in some company with yet another baseball luminary from days gone by.
Ender Inciarte followed it up with a triple and then Nick Markakis brought him home with a single to give the Braves two quick runs. Boston scored their only run of the game (I’m talking about the game that took place in the regular universe instead of the alternate universe that this game careened into during the latter stages of the contest) in the second inning after they manufactured a run (and also had some help from a bad decision from Lucas Duda) to push Brandon Phillips across the plate.
That run was the lone blemish on what was a solid day from Mike Foltynewicz. We’re used to seeing him leave after six innings, but that’s normally because he’s run his pitch count so high by then. That was not the case today, as he was sitting on just two hits allowed and two walks with five strikeouts over just 87 pitches. The Red Sox didn’t exactly put out their A-lineup at the beginning of today’s game, but Folty put out an A-effort and it showed with the way he managed to fool their hitters while he was on the mound.
I suppose the reason why Brian Snitker felt comfortable about removing Folty from the game at such an early stage was because the Braves had a comfortable lead at that point. The bottom of the fifth ended up being a great one for the home team as the team jumped on Drew Pomeranz as he entered the game. The first four Braves to come to the plate all reached base, which included another RBI single from Nick Markakis to push their cushion to two runs. The lead increased when Ender Inciarte scored on a fielder’s choice and then Ozzie Albies broke the game open with a bases-clearing triple to make it 6-1.
Tyler Flowers brought Ozzie home with a single and that made it 7-1 Braves. The game was well in hand at this point and Atlanta should have cruised to a comfortable victory.
Then the eighth inning came along and we were all reminded that we all cheer for an Atlanta sports team, which means no lead is safe until the game is actually over. Dan Winkler and Jonny Venters were the first two bullpen arms to take the mound in that frame and the first out did not come until the Red Sox had scored four runs to make it a game at 7-5. Steve Pearce’s sacrifice fly gave the Braves an out that they desperately needed and they could have escaped the inning with a double play, but Johan Camargo managed to find a way to boot a tailor-made double play ball from Brandon Phillips and then then also over-threw the ball so that the Red Sox could now have two runners in scoring position.
That error proved to be costly as Brad Brach gave up a single to 98 wRC+ hitter Ian Kinsler to bring home both of those runners and tie the game at seven. The Braves miraculously got out of the inning with the game still tied, but this dagger still had more twists left in it.
It seemed as if the Braves would escape this after Freddie Freeman came off of the bench and out of the phone booth so that he could do his best Superman impression. It sure seemed like Atlanta’s franchise player had saved the day after he hit a towering home run to put the Braves back in front.
Unfortunately, the Braves bullpen was unable to get the job done even when afforded another lifeline. A.J. Minter was tasked with getting the final four outs of the game. He gave up a single with one out to Andrew Benintendi and with two outs, all he had to do was get Brandon Phillips out to end the game and give the Braves and their fans all over a bit of a relief. It didn’t happen.
That’s easily the worst loss of the season, and that’s saying something when you consider the debacle that occurred during a wintry mix of conditions at Wrigley Field back in the season’s infancy. Simply put, you cannot afford to throw away a win like that, especially against a team like the Red Sox. What makes the loss completely unacceptable is the fact that the Boston players who did the most damage aren’t exactly regulars. This was a prime opportunity to pick up a big win and the Braves blew it, plain and simple.
Instead of going into their final west coast trip on a high of beating a high-powered Red Sox team, they’ll now be heading into the desert trying to get things back together after an utterly embarrassing defeat. I’ll leave you with the Win Expectancy chart.