Keep in mind that the Braves lost 9-5 on Friday night, when you read the following bullet points:
- Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee’s starter, entered this game as the fWAR leader among all pitchers. He had not had a game with a below-average FIP yet this year.
- The Braves scored four runs off Burnes in the first, and chased him with two on, zero out in the fifth, tying his shortest outing of the year.
- Josh Tomlin pitched two scoreless innings.
When that four-run first inning outburst happened, I was speechless. This team? Against Corbin Burnes? But yes, it’s true: Joc Pederson hit a weak roller for a groundball single on Burnes’ first pitch, Ozzie Albies tapped back to the mound, Freddie Freeman sliced a single to left out of reach of the outfielder to make it a 1-0 game, and then Austin Riley followed with a looping fly ball down the left-field line that went for a (pretty cheap, but still counts) two-run homer. The Braves weren’t done, either — Dansby Swanson’s weak roller went for an infield single, and after a steal of second, Steven Vogt made it 4-0 with a harder-hit ball than Riley’s homer, lined into right. Just flabbergasting.
But this is the 2021 season for the Atlanta Braves, so these things aren’t portents. They’re just additional opportunities for tactical missteps and disappointment. With Touki Toussaint on the mound, there was the hope that he could replicate his first two outings of the season and the Braves could cruise to a win... but hope, despite being the thing with feathers, is also very fleeting these days. Toussaint started his night with two scoreless frames, despite once again leaving some balls in the middle of the zone that were hit for easy outs. But he wasn’t so fortunate in the third.
The inning started with a grounder up the middle by Kolten Wong that resulted in a single. Willy Adames followed with a rifled shot into left field. Neither pitch was particularly near an edge of the zone. Omar Narvaez was next and he got beat on a splitter down the pipe but still hit it to center for a sacrifice fly. After a walk and a strikeout, Toussaint had a chance to get out of it... but he hung a 3-2 curveball to Avisail Garcia, and Garcia crushed it into the bullpen in left field to tie the game. That, though... it happens. You’re not going to dominate every start.
I can’t say I was flabbergasted about the top of the fourth. It was sadly predictable. Toussaint started the inning with a 1-2 hit-by-pitch. A sacrifice bunt by Burnes brought the dreaded third time through the order. The Braves left Toussaint in. They basically always leave them in. It’s almost August, and they almost always leave them in. Two pitches later, Wong ripped a double into right field, and the Braves were now trailing. The pitch he hit was also right down the middle. Then Adames came up, and, you guessed it — hit a pitch right down the middle for a two-run moonshot that was so ridiculously crushed that I’m not sure why Guillermo Heredia even tried running it down. And now the Braves were trailing by three. That’s when they decided to lift Toussaint, after letting him allow three runs in the inning without getting any outs except for a sacrifice bunt. Good job saving the bullpen, everyone. Look, I want to stop writing about this stuff in recaps, but it keeps happening.
Sean Newcomb was the first “reliever” out, and he really just made things worse. Single-walk-strikeout-infield single loaded the bases, and then another groundball single scored an eighth Milwaukee run. It would’ve made it a 9-4 game, but Adam Duvall, making his 2021 Braves debut after being acquired from the Marlins earlier in the day, gunned a runner down at the plate.
Burnes had settled down to some extent at this point, and the Braves wasted Joc Pederson’s two-out hustle double in the bottom half of the inning. Newcomb gave up a couple of singles but no more runs in the top of the fifth, and the Braves chased Burnes shortly thereafter with back-to-back walks and an RBI single by Duvall to start the frame. Brad Boxberger came in, and the inning only lasted three more pitches. Representing the tying run, Swanson flew out on the first pitch. Vogt flew out on the second pitch, and for some inexplicable reason, Riley tried to tag up and take third. He was thrown out. Again, I don’t want to write about this either, but it, where by “it” I mean awful baserunning, keeps happening. Just stand still, yeesh.
The game mostly settled down afterwards. Edgar Santana threw a perfect frame, Boxberger came back out and went 1-2-3. Josh Tomlin did the same in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, the Braves threatened in a big way against Jake Cousins, who gave up an 0-2 single to Albies and then plunked Freeman. Riley was primed for an epic moment... but hit into a double play, and Duvall grounded out. Oh well. Tomlin threw a second scoreless inning, and the Braves didn’t do anything after Swanson drew a leadoff walk against Devin Williams in the eighth. In the ninth, Shane Greene came on, promptly allowed a homer to new Brewer Eduardo Escobar, allowed two more baserunners, but eventually left with the Braves trailing 9-4.
The Brewers didn’t even need to use Josh Hader in this game. Brent Suter came up and funky delivery’d his way into three straight strikeouts to close out the game. Freeman was the final out, and swung at a curve way out of the zone after burning his first two strikes trying to bunt his way on or something. “Why doesn’t Freeman just bunt when they’re shifting him?” Probably something like that, I don’t know.
Anyway, the Braves lost again, meaning they’ve alternated wins and losses for
a trillion 15 games now. The Mets and Phillies also lost, so really what the Braves lost is time on the schedule. And a small piece of my sanity for watching yet another lead get disastrously excoriated because of the hubris of thinking little harm can come from letting batters see a pitcher a third time, I guess. They’ll try again tomorrow against Brandon Woodruff — I guess they might also rough him up like they did Burnes, but we’ll see if it actually ends up mattering.