The Braves’ bullpen was feeling generous on Monday night, blowing a late lead and allowing the Phillies to mount a 6-4 comeback victory. It’s a shame, because things had been going fairly well on the mound leading up to Shane Greene’s time in the ninth.
Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint did the lion’s share of the pitching for the Braves, and both looked solid. Newcomb’s bid to re-enter the rotation took another step forward, as he went three scoreless innings, striking out two, allowing only two hits, and - most importantly - no walks. He threw 31 of his 45 pitches for strikes, which is a positive development. Meanwhile, Toussaint is likely lagging behind on the depth chart, but he continues to intrigue as a possible long reliever or spot starter until the Braves have a more permanent role for him.
After a strong first inning from Newcomb where he worked around an error from Charlie Culberson, the Braves’ offense went to work. Culberson led off the inning with a single, and was immediately chased home by a double from Johan Camargo. After consecutive walks to Freddie Freeman (in his first at-bat since missing a week with elbow inflammation) and Travis d’Arnaud, a Nick Markakis sac fly brought home Camargo. Austin Riley, whose approach at the plate has been the subject of much discussion this Spring, barely missed a home run to center and settled for an RBI double (which would have been a two-run two-bagger had d’Arnaud not been thrown out at the plate). Before the first frame was complete, the Braves were up 3-0.
Newcomb got into some hot water in the third, surrendering two straight singles and falling victim to an Austin Riley error. On the first pitch after the Riley error, Newk was able to induce a double play grounder and keep a goose egg for the Phillies on the scoreboard. No harm, no foul.
In the fourth inning, Cristian Pache repeated the same sequence he initiated in the second inning - reaching on an infield hit and stealing second. Following a walk to Culberson, Camargo laced an RBI single into right to bring Pache home and to extend the lead to 4-0.
Touki Toussaint, who relieved Newcomb after the third inning, was electric over his first two frames. He faltered a bit in the sixth inning, allowing two walks and a fielder’s choice, then an RBI groundout off the bat of old friend Phil Gosselin (for whom Toussaint was once traded). All things considered, Touki went 2 ⅔ innings and allowed one run on no hits, striking out four and allowing zero fly balls. If he can leverage his absurd arsenal into groundball-heavy results, he could be another dangerous weapon for the Braves.
Christian Bethancourt, a former Braves prospect, homered to center in the seventh inning off Will Smith, bringing the score to 4-2. Smith kept his line otherwise clean.
Luke Jackson, the most divisive man in Braves Country, worked a very Luke Jackson-esque eighth inning. He gave up a lead off single to Luke Williams, who took second on a wild pitch, then took third on a passed ball. He managed to work around the base runner by striking out the side. Between the lead off hit, the swinging strikeout on the elite slider, and some bad luck that was out of his control, we were dangerously close to Luke Jackson Bingo.
And then, Shane Greene showed up and things got ugly.
Bethancourt’s revenge tour continued, as he mashed an offering from Greene into the seats, bringing the Phils back to within one. Greene played with fire for the rest of the inning, walking Nick Martini and watching catcher Carlos Martinez allow another passed ball. Former Dodger Kyle Garlick singled in Martini to tie it up, then another Luke Williams single put the Phils ahead for good. This was the end of the line for Greene, but Tucker Davidson allowed a single that brought home another run that went on Greene’s line. His Spring Training ERA, which inconsequential but noticeable, now sits at a robust 16.88.
The Braves are back at it tomorrow afternoon, facing the Rays at 1:05pm ET.