It wasn’t that long ago when the Braves went down to Dunedin, Florida and got swept by the Toronto Blue Jays. With that beating still fresh in memory, the Blue Jays added to the frustration by completing the season sweep with yet another beating of the Braves.
It would’ve been understandable to feel a rush of excitement from the way the Braves started today’s game. After Charlie Morton sat down the Blue Jays in order, Ronald Acuña Jr. sent the first pitch he saw from Ross Stripling flying into the Hank Aaron Terrace for his 21st career leadoff home run. There are few better ways to start off a game than that, and few baseball players make it look more fun and do it in more dynamic fashion than Ronald Acuña does on a consistent basis.
Later on in that inning, Ehire Adrianza came through and brought home Freddie Freeman from third base for Atlanta’s second run of the inning. At that moment, the Braves had runners on second and third with only one out and they were looking primed to have a really big inning. Instead, Dansby Swanson and Jeff Mathis both struck out swinging to end the threat right there and I think we all knew that just two runs were never going to be enough to feel comfortable against Toronto.
Sure enough, the Blue Jays answered in the very next frame. After Cavan Biggio reached base on a walk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Jonathan Davis strung together back-to-back singles to put Toronto on the board. Charlie Morton then proceeded to hit Reese McGuire and just like that, he was in a bases loaded jam. Fortunately, Morton took care of the pitcher in short order and then induced a fly ball out of Marcus Semien to stop the threat and preserve the lead for the Braves at that point.
After that, Charlie Morton pitched two really good innings and seemed to be really settled in and cruising at that point. However, the One Bad Inning that has routinely tripped up Morton this season tripped him up in the fifth inning. With a man in scoring position with two outs and a two-strike count, Morton was a strike away from keeping the Braves ahead going into the bottom of the fifth. Instead, Morton gave up a single to Cavan Biggio and the Blue Jays tied the game up. This eventually snowballed into Teoscar Hernandez putting Toronto in the lead with a single of his own and suddenly the Braves went from being in a comfortable spot to being in a prickly position in a hurry. Jacob Webb had to finish the fifth inning in relief of Charlie Morton, who has yet to really get out of first gear for the Braves so far this season.
The good news is that the Braves lineup wasn’t done with just two runs. After Marcell Ozuna led off the sixth inning by welcoming Tim Mayza to the game with a single, it eventually came down to Dansby Swanson coming to the plate with two outs and Ozuna still at first base. After seeing Ronald Acuña Jr. send one into the Hank Aaron Terrace back in the first inning, Dansby took a crack at it and delivered the Braves’ second two-run homer of the day to put them back in the lead. It was a much-needed blast for Dansby and for the Braves in general, who had suddenly surged back into the lead shortly after falling behind.
Unfortunately, that is as good as it got for the Braves. Once again, the Blue Jays did most of their damage against the Atlanta’s bullpen. A.J. Minter entered the game in the eighth inning and immediately found himself in trouble after a leadoff walk and a double from none other than Cavan Biggio tied things up at four. It took Luke Jackson having to come on to take on Randal Grichuk in order to get out of the game with things still tied.
Things did not get better from there. Will Smith came on for the ninth inning and the Blue Jays just got after him. If there was soft contact, the Blue Jays got a hit. If there was hard contact, the Blue Jays got a hit. It did not matter what Will Smith did, the Blue Jays were doggedly determined to go up there and bop him and they did just that. When the smoke cleared, the Blue Jays had put up four runs on the board in the ninth inning. The Toronto Blue Jays scored 17 runs in this three-game series in Cobb County — 14 of them were scored during or after the sixth inning of each respective game. Simply put, the Braves bullpen got absolutely demolished by Toronto’s lineup and quite frankly, it was demoralizing to watch.
After Jordan Romano struck out the side to end the game, the Braves have once again fallen into a three-game losing streak and they’ll be playing in Milwaukee tomorrow night while trying to avoid their fourth four-game losing streak of the season. It’s only May 13. Did I mention Ronald Acuña Jr. left the game with some sort of ankle ailment that he suffered trying to leg out an infield single? His X-rays were negative but Cristian Pache will be returning to the IL after straining his hamstring while running to first base today. Frustration abounds in Atlanta right now.