Ian Anderson pitched well, but not well enough to give the Braves a win on Saturday afternoon. A first-inning homer by Jesse Winker and a couple of bad pitches behind in the count were plenty for the Reds to secure the victory behind Luis Castillo, and that was pretty much that, as the Braves lost their second game of this series by a 4-1 score.
As mentioned, Winker drew first blood in this game by obliterating an Anderson changeup that finished in the zone. It was one of the most-crushed balls you’ll see this season. The Braves tried to respond in the top of the second with back-to-back singles, the latter of which was a fortunate bloop, but Castillo coaxed three straight groundouts to escape the inning. Anderson worked a scoreless second despite allowing two batters to reach with one out thanks to a double play.
In the top of the third, the Braves had a great scoring opportunity end in a frustrating way, on par with a ton of such occurrences this season. With one out, Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled past a diving winker into left center. Freddie Freeman drew a five-pitch walk, and Ozzie Albies flew out to deep center for the second out of the inning. That brought up Austin Riley, who crushed a first-pitch Castillo sinker that ran in on him at 109.7 mph (harder than Winker’s homer)... but it was hit right at Eugenio Suarez at first base, and the inning was immediately over. (The Braves had 10 hard-hit balls to the Reds’ seven in this game, but the Reds went 6-for-7 on theirs and the Braves went 5-for-10 on theirs, so you get the idea. Like I said, par for the course.)
The Reds responded by extending their lead. Jonathan India lined a one-out single, and scored when Ian Anderson fell behind Nick Castellanos 3-0 and then grooved him a get-me-over fastball that was killed into center field for an RBI double. Joey Votto extended the inning by hitting another grooved fastball, this time on 3-2, allowing Castellanos to score ahead of Acuña’s throw.
With the Braves now down 3-0, the game was mostly over. Anderson was perfect for his remaining three frames, finishing with a pretty awesome 9/1 K/BB ratio, his line mostly marred by the Winker homer (and also those grooved fastballs in the third, but honestly, eh, in another universe those just get caught since neither left the yard). The nine strikeouts were a new season high for him, and tied a career high. Castillo allowed a few baserunners here and there, but no runs. The top of the sixth also kind of summed up this game — the Braves went scoreless in the inning despite three consecutive hard-hit (95 mph or higher) balls, each with a hit probability of 55 percent or higher. The inning started with a flare by Riley that could’ve been a single if not for a tumbling catch in center by Shogo Akiyama (who replaced Winker, who left the game with a hip contusion). Dansby Swanson was then robbed of a hit when Kyle Farmer made a diving stop on his 101.8 mph grounder. Guillermo Heredia followed with a single, and William Contreras followed with a double to right... but Heredia was thrown out at the plate by multiple steps, and that was that.
Castillo finished the game with seven scoreless frames and a 6/2 K/BB ratio. After Shane Greene threw a 1-2-3 frame, Brad Brach came on for the eighth and yielded the Braves’ only tally, as Heredia hit an RBI grounder through the left side to convert one of Brach’s two walks of the inning into a run. Unfortunately, an RBI grounder was not enough for last night’s hero, as Brach struck out Contreras to end the threat.
Edgar Santana came on for the bottom of the inning and immediately allowed a solo homer to pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson, so, you know, welp. The Braves went down pretty easily against Amir Garrett in the ninth; Ender Inciarte beat out an infield single, but pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza, Acuña, and Freeman went down in order afterwards. So it goes, and so go the Braves’ playoff odds, as the Mets are walking off on the Phillies as I type this.
The Braves will try to leave Cincinnati with a series split by turning another bullpen game into a victory tomorrow, against top-20ish-starter-in-baseball (yes that’s right!) Tyler Mahle tomorrow. Goodluck, godspeed.