Puig’s Blast, Braves Mistakes Lead to 5-0 Series Opening Loss


If there was a single word that described Thursday night’s series opener for the Braves, it was maddening. 

Between the opening run scoring as a result of a double that fell between BJ Upton and Jason Heyward, a 7th-inning debacle that produced 0 runs despite having 1st-and-3rd with 0 outs (highlighted by some questionable baserunning from Freddie Freeman), and Jordan Schafer being called out for not re-touching 2nd base in the 8th inning, it was a comedy of errors for Atlanta. However, it was one swing of the bat from Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig that turned the lights out on the Braves.

Puig took a Cory Gearrin offering over the right-field wall for a game-clinching grand slam in the bottom of the 8th, and the 5-0 lead that resulted from the blast doubled as the final score of the game. It was an extremely rough inning for Gearrin, who allowed 3 hits and a walk to go along with 4 earned runs, and Puig’s at-bat was simply the finishing blow. There is certainly some question about why Gearrin started the inning (Jordan Walden, anyone?), but it was simply a rusty and ineffective performance from Gearrin, who hadn’t pitched since Friday.

On the positive side for Atlanta, Tim Hudson was absolutely electric in this game. Hudson threw 7 innings and allowed only 4 hits (with 0 walks) and 1 earned run while striking out 5 batters. Obviously, this is an impressive stat line, but the highlight for me was Hudson’s efficiency, as he threw only 76 pitches to get 21 outs, and was only removed from the game for a much-needed pinch hitter. His performance was extremely encouraging, and this was the second consecutive fantastic performance from the previously-struggling right-hander.

Offensively, it was a rough night for Atlanta, even without considering the previously-stated mental errors. Zack Greinke needed 117 pitches to complete 7 innings, but the Braves scratched out only 4 hits against him. It was a strong night from Jason Heyward (2 for 4 for his 4th consecutive multi-hit game), but outside of his performance, the offensive production was sorely lacking. A microcosm of those lackluster efforts came from Justin Upton, as the Braves #3 hitter went 0-for-3 (with a walk) as a result of 3 strikeouts to continue his now-prolonged slump.

In the end, Thursday will probably remembered for Puig’s blast, but Braves fans will likely recall the mental calamity in the late innings as the main takeaway. Fortunately, this is a long series, and the Braves unquestionably have pitching advantages in a couple of the upcoming match-ups. Stay tuned as Game #2 of the series kicks off at 10:10 pm ET on Friday with Paul Maholm squaring off with Hyun-Jin Ryu.