After grabbing back-to-back wins in Los Angeles to salvage an unlikely split with the Dodgers, the Braves seemed to have all of the momentum as they headed to San Diego… and then, they arrived.
Monday, June 10th – Loss (7-6)
Frankly, this game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis combined for 3 home runs (two by Heyward) in the 8th and 9th innings, and as a result, they pulled the Braves within the small closing margin. However, it was a rough day overall for Atlanta prior to that late outburst. Julio Teheran struggled throughout his day, allowing 5 earned runs through 6 innings, and Cory Gearrin was an abject disaster in his two innings, allowing 2 runs as a result of facing repeated left-handed batters. For the opposition, former Brave Jason Marquis showed weaknesses throughout (i.e. 5 walks to 4 strikeouts), but the bats couldn’t solve him. Aside from the slip-up from Teheran, there weren’t any negative takeaways aside from Fredi Gonzalez’s deployment of Cory Gearrin. This is an ongoing issue, and it was furthered by the fact that Gearrin was “effective” against lefties early in the season. For me, Gearrin is the definition of a ROOGY, and he should never start an inning unless that inning is stocked with right-handed batters. Alas, the Braves made this one close, but it wasn’t pretty.
Tuesday, June 11th – Loss (3-2)
This was basically the Andrew Cashner show. The Padres’ starter threw a career-high 8 innings and allowed only 2 runs in holding the offense at bay throughout the night. Only Brian McCann managed a multi-hit game for Atlanta, and all 6 of the Braves’ hits were singles. The biggest offensive disappointment of the day came in the 6th inning, when the Braves had runners on 1st and 3rd (Justin Upton and Jason Heyward) with no outs, but Freddie Freeman grounded into a double play. While that did produce a run (cue the Saber-haters!), it was the worst possible outcome, and it would be the best opportunity on the night. On the pitching end, Tim Hudson failed to out-duel Cashner, but he was very solid. After a rough start, Huddy settled in to complete 7.1 innings while giving the team a chance to win with only the 3 earned runs, and he was near-flawless after the 3rd inning. The frustration was mounting with this loss, but Wednesday tipped the can over.
Wednesday, June 12th – Loss (5-3)
Sweep! The Braves were confounded by the normally underwhelming Edinson Volquez, as he threw 7 innings of 1-run ball with 9 strikeouts. San Diego was staked to a 3-run lead in the first, as Paul Maholm saw himself struggle, and along with some unlucky bounces, it was a bleed-after-bleed type of inning. In fact, the hardest hit ball of the frame was the inning-ending double play, but unfortunately, the damage was done. The Braves bats also stayed silent for the first 7 innings of the game (as referenced above), before Justin Upton homered in the 8th, and Jordan Schafer poked an RBI single in the 9th. After a Jason Heyward single in the 9th (off of a tough left-hander, mind you), Justin Upton struck out looking on a questionable call with 2 men on, and that was that. Sigh.
Among the scenarios that would have been considered “most likely” before the series began, a San Diego sweep would have finished dead last. The Braves offense went silent despite out-hitting San Diego in every game, and frankly, they were the better “situational” team. Obviously, the breaks of a long season lend to some random variation, but the maddening way in which Atlanta lost all three contests is frustrating. Following the series, the Braves still hold a 6-game lead over Washington, however, and the team returns to Turner Field on Friday for an 8-game homestand over 7 days. Stay tuned.