If baseball were about narrative, you could have made a good one about this game: an underachieving team loses its best player and then rallies to take the rest of the season by storm, starting immediately by routing the opposition in the next game. Yeah, so, here’s the thing: baseball is not about narrative, and that didn’t happen. Instead, the pitching faltered big time, and the Braves lost their series finale in Miami by a 7-4 score, dropping to 44-45 on the season as they wrap up their spate of 89 games before the All-Star Break.
Things started out very, very poorly for the Braves. Pablo Lopez, whose last start against the Braves lasted all of one pitch (he was ejected for hitting the now-injured Ronald Acuña Jr.), actually set a modern era (since 1900) MLB record in this one, striking out nine consecutive Braves to begin the game. He almost had an immaculate inning in the first, and the Braves were just overmatched in those first three innings. Ian Anderson, the Atlanta starter, did not do anything to keep pace. He did actually strike out the side in the first, but that also came with back-to-back one-out walks, and then a booming three-run homer by Jesus Aguilar. The Marlins actually batted around in the first, and Anderson had to strike out Lopez with a few high fastballs to escape a bases-loaded jam (which happened after the three-run homer).
The second wasn’t much better for Anderson, as he had to face Aguilar again with two on and one out, but this time he got him to hit into a double play to keep the deficit at three runs. But, he was chased by Miami in the third, as leadoff double, bunt single, groundout, walk led to a run and his departure. Josh Tomlin got out of the third with no further damage, but what a woof of a start by Anderson — easily the shortest, and worst, of his young career. Anderson has been really good for the Braves in 2021, but this outing was decidedly not it, narrative or no. So it goes.
The Braves actually clawed a couple of runs back against Lopez as soon as his strikeout streak ended. A Freddie Freeman double and then RBI singles by Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia made it a 4-2 game. Dansby Swanson later walked, but Guillermo Heredia couldn’t give the Braves a lead, grounding out to end the inning.
The thing with Josh Tomlin is that you can definitely bring him on to eat innings, but not exactly to keep your win expectancy reasonable. (Unless he’s done one of his Reliever God ascensions, and again, this game was not it.) Tomlin immediately gave back the two runs the Braves scored in the bottom of the fourth, as single-double-single made it a 6-2 game. The Braves had a chance to get another run back after Kevan Smith’s leadoff double, but Johan Camargo (welcome back, I guess) and Ehire Adrianza made outs, Freeman walked, and Albies flew out.
Tyler Matzek threw a scoreless fifth, and Swanson tagged Lopez for an 0-2 homer into left center to make it a 6-3 game. But Shane Greene gave that run right back too, as Jesus Sanchez hit a two-out triple and then scored when a grounder hit off a diving Freeman’s glove, with Greene not able to get to the first-base bag in time.
The rest of the game was mostly devoid of fireworks, short of Swanson’s second homer of the game, in the ninth. Richard Bleier, Anthony Bass, and Anthony Bender threw the final three innings for Miami and allowed just that one “baserunner” while Edgar Santana wrapped up two scoreless innings for Atlanta to close out the first half.
So yeah, that was lame. At least Dansby Swanson huge day (666 wRC+) bumped up to a nearly-average 99 wRC+ on the season. The Braves will now regroup for a while during the All-Star break and try to do... something in the remaining games they have allotted. The odds are so very much not in their favor it’s a terrible place to be, but we’ll see what happens.