This post is (perhaps you figured this out already) a companion piece to the earlier one about how the Braves could beat the Reds. While I was always going to do two posts, one about winning the series and one about losing the series, amusingly, things worked out fairly easily for me. The “run” in the prior post was the first one I pulled, where the Braves hammered the Reds and won both of the first two games. I didn’t have to fish for a “run” where the Braves lost; it was the very next one I pulled.
As a reminder, the way this hypothetical was crafted was to take all of the Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Kyle Wright starts against subpar offenses like the Reds, and randomly select one as needed. The same random selection was done by starters of the caliber of Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray against the Braves. The two “halves” were then combined into a single game narrative, as done below.
Game 1: Trevor Bauer vs. Max Fried
Disaster strikes early for the Braves in this one, and the series gets off on the wrong foot, almost literally. On the second batter of the game, Max Fried lands awkwardly fielding a comebacker; he records the out but hurts his ankle. He attempts to pitch through it, but both Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez take him deep; Brian Snitker and the Braves’ medical staff determine he can’t continue, and the Braves are in a 2-0 hole and forced to go to to their bullpen immediately.
But for those two homers, who knows what might have happened? The Reds extend their lead to 4-0 off the bullpen in the fourth, but get nothing else. In the fifth, the Braves have a small rally against Bauer — Travis d’Arnaud homers to lead off the frame and make it a 4-1 game, and Ronald Acuña Jr. singles in another run. But, despite a couple of stolen bases in the inning, that’s all the Braves get. Bauer completes six, scattering just three singles outside of the fifth.
The Braves, of course, make it interesting. In the seventh, just as Bauer is gone, they load the bases with one out. But, the top of the order fails to come through, as a strikeout and a groundout by Freddie Freeman keep it a 4-2 game. In the eighth and ninth, the Cincinnati relief corps gives the Braves hope twice, with a walk that brings the tying run to the plate in both innings. But, the eight-inning leadoff walk to Marcell Ozuna is erased on a Travis d’Arnaud double play, and Acuña strikes out to end the game.
Game 2: Luis Castillo vs. Ian Anderson
With their backs against the wall, the Braves and Ian Anderson end up not sweating too much. Well, that might be an overstatement; Anderson allows baserunners, but not runs, at least not at first. The game is scoreless in the bottom of the third, at least until Freeman singles, Ozuna pops a two-run homer off Castillo, and d’Arnaud goes back-to-back. Three of the next four batters also reach, chasing Castillo with the Reds down 4-0.
In the fifth, the Braves go berserk on the Reds’ bullpen, the way we’ve seen a few times this season. Anderson has an 11-0 lead heading into the sixth. The Reds drip and drop three runs on him with two outs in the sixth, and later hit a homer, but it doesn’t really matter, as the Braves win 11-4.
Game 3: Sonny Gray vs. Kyle Wright
So, it comes down to this. And, since this is the “How the Reds might beat the Braves” post, you know it doesn’t go well.
A solo homer to lead off the second puts Wright and the Braves in a 1-0 hole. The same thing happens in the third, and the Braves are down 2-0. They threaten in the bottom of third against Gray, as Freeman is grazed and Ozuna walks, but d’Arnaud pops out to end the inning.
Things go from bad to worse in the fourth. A leadoff walk from Wright ends up doubling the deficit when the next batter homers. Wright gives up another run before departing the game for good. The Braves, however, just can’t get anything going against Gray or anyone else. They work counts and get some walks, and Gray is removed after five, but somehow, the same bullpen they hammered in the prior game smothers them this time. A leadoff walk to Ozuna goes nowhere in the sixth; another leadoff walk and then a single suggest the Braves could at least make a dent in the seventh, but Acuña and Freeman strike out to end the inning.
Trailing 5-0 in the bottom of the eighth, the Braves finally cash something in — they load the bases with none out, forcing David Bell to go get Raisel Iglesias for a potential six-out stint. Adam Duvall strikes out, but Dansby Swanson hits a hard grounder past short to make it 6-2. But, no further damage occurs — Iglesias gets two outs, and after the Reds tack on two more in the top of the ninth, Iglesias yields just a walk to Freeman as the Braves’ season abruptly ends.
The Braves have hit well. They’ve hit relievers very well. Can they be sunk in a decisive game by Sonny Gray and Reds relievers? Of course. Would any of this surprise you? It shouldn’t.