On a windy Monday afternoon in Dunedin, the visiting Braves lost to the Blue Jays. Both Cristian Pache and Drew Waters were in the lineup as starters, hitting back-to-back, and both had very eventful days at the plate (and in the field).
With few regulars in the lineup, the Braves nonetheless managed a very productive first inning against Shun Yamaguchi, making his stateside debut. Yamaguchi allowed three of the first five Braves he faced to reach courtesy of a single, a hit batsman, and a walk. That brought Waters to the plate for the first time, and he lined a single to left to score two runs. Pache came up right after and sprayed his own liner up the middle to plate a third run. That chased Yamaguchi, and the Waters-Pache duo greeted the next pitcher, Conor Fisk, with a successful double-steal. Those three runs were all the Braves would get in the game, however, as Alex Jackson struck out swinging to end the inning.
Max Fried made his 2020 Grapefruit League debut today, and success was not in the cards for the southpaw (not that it matters). Fried faced six batters and retired just one of them, though at least that out came via strikeout. The other five batters went single-double-walk-double-walk, with all three balls in play hit to Pache in right field. Apparently, a wicked wind played tricks with the ball and hampered Pache (in right field because Ender Inciarte started in center) from making the necessary plays. Fried departed with a 3-2 lead and the bases packed; Jose Manuel Fernandez came on in his relief and promptly walked in the tying run. He then got former Braves farmhand Brandon Drury to roll into a double play to keep the game tied.
Waters and Pache got to face Ken Giles in the third, and didn’t do much: Waters struck out (looking, not swinging, ha) and Pache grounded out. Pache got some defensive revenge in the bottom half of the inning by helping to throw out a runner at home. That momentarily saved Ian Anderson from yielding a run, but with two outs and runners on second and third, Anderson was charged with a balk that scored the go-ahead, and ultimately decisive, run of the game. Spring Training! It wasn’t a particularly gladdening outing for Anderson (though again, it doesn’t really matter!) as he walked two men and struck out one, and was lifted after the balk and before he could finish the inning.
In the sixth, Waters and Pache got their last licks of the game in. After Charlie Culberson drew a leadoff walk, Waters went down swinging as part of a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play. Pache then flew out to end the inning.
The rest of the game was very quiet: the first three half-innings took over an hour and fifteen minutes to complete, and the next fourteen took just about two hours. The Blue Jays used four pitchers that posted a collective 10/2 K/BB ratio and allowed just three hits and a walk after Yamaguchi’s departure. The Braves threw Tyler Matzek, Thomas Burrows, Kurt Hoekstra, Connor Johnstone, and Ben Rowen after the Fried-Fernandez-Anderson trio, and they combined for three each of hits, walks, and strikeouts in 5 1⁄3 innings, which was much better than the 2/5 K/BB ratio the leading trio managed.
Offensively, there wasn’t much to colorfully describe beyond the first inning suppuration. The Braves still have yet to manage an extra-base hit through their first three Spring Training games, and collected just five singles today, two of which came courtesy of Dansby Swanson. Ender Inciarte went 1-for-3 with a single and strikeout out of the leadoff spot; Charlie Culberson went 0-for-1 with two walks. Johan Camargo went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, but scored after being hit by a Yamaguchi pitch in the first. None of Atlanta’s replacements did anything; Bryce Ball struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. The Braves had one last-gasp chance to tie the game in the seventh after Yangervis Solarte singled and moved to second on a wild pitch, but Atlanta’s bats made eight straight outs en route to losing the one-run affair.
The Braves return to North Port tomorrow to face the Twins, with Mike Foltynewicz getting his first official action of the season.