Words cannot describe the frustration of a series like this. Atlanta could have – and should have – won the entire series. Instead, with the help of their bullpen, they blew two of the games and only won one. The Braves’ starting pitching was good in this series, so was their offense; but not the bullpen. With the trade deadline coming up, I’m sure that Atlanta’s front office will be looking for some bullpen help.
Game One: Charlie Morton vs. Michael Wacha, Braves lost 7-6
Charlie Morton did not pitch a bad game at all. Like usual, it was the bullpen that blew the game. Morton went six innings, allowed six hits, three runs, three walks, and he had eight strikeouts.
Tampa Bay started the scoring in the top of the second inning where they scored two runs. They maintained that 2-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth inning in which the Braves hit two home runs. One was a two-run shot by Austin Riley that allowed my Ozzie to score and tie the game at two apiece. The other one was a solo shot by Dansby Swanson to give Atlanta the lead 3-2.
The Rays’ first baseman, Ji-Man Choi, tied the game with a solo home run in the top of the fifth. However, Atlanta’s offense was having none of that. Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to give the Braves a 5-3 lead.
The Rays got one run closer in the top of the seventh on a sac fly by Austin Meadows to make it 5-4. However, just like in the fifth inning, the Braves came right back and scored yet another run. This time it was on an RBI single by Orlando Arcia that scored Freeman and extended Atlanta’s lead to 6-4.
Although the Braves had a decent lead, their bullpen blew it. In the top of the eighth inning, Chris Martin was pitching for the Braves. He gave up two RBI singles to tie the game at six apiece. Martin has, for the most part, been lights out for Atlanta this season. However, he did not have his best stuff and ultimately blew the game for the Braves. The game went into extra innings, and Jesse Chavez wasn’t able to keep the tie; he allowed the Rays to score, making it a 7-6 loss for Atlanta.
Game Two: Max Fried vs. Josh Fleming, Braves won 9-0
Everything went right for the Braves in this game. Starting and bullpen pitching were excellent, defensively they were without error, and offensively they were working on all cylinders. Atlanta has games like this one scattered about this season, but unfortunately they haven’t been consistent with them.
Max Fried pitched excellent for the Braves. He went seven innings, allowed only four hits, ZERO runs, one walk, and he had seven strikeouts. Fried’s stuff was very good. He had great control over where his pitches were going, how deep his counts got towards the hitters he was facing, and everything in between. Not to mention… Max was 3-for-three at the plate! He had two singles and a two-RBI double. WOW! He was very impressive all around in this game for Atlanta!
The Atlanta Braves broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freddie Freeman led off that inning with a first-pitch single, and then my man Ozzie Albies had an RBI double that scored Freeman. After that, Ozzie advanced to third on a fielding error by the Rays’ center fielder. Austin Riley then scored Ozzie with a sac fly to make the score 2-0 Braves. Orland Arcia had a ground out to make the second out of inning. Guillermo Heredia kept the inning alive and then Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher, Josh Fleming intentionally walked Braves catcher Kevan Smith to get to Max Fried (who was 1-for-1 with a single). Guess what Max did?!? He had a two-RBI double that scored Heredia and Smith making it a 4-0 game. And then, to add the final blow of that inning, Joc Pederson hit a two-run dinger making it 6-0, all Atlanta!
To add onto their lead, Freddie Freeman hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-0. And in the bottom of the sixth inning, Dansby Swanson had an RBI double that scored Kevan Smith and advanced Max Fried to third, making it 8-0. Then, to score the final run, Freeman had a sac fly to score Fried from third base.
From that point on, Atlanta’s pitching was lights-out and preserved a 9-0 shut out!
Game Three: Drew Smyly vs. Rich Hills, Braves lost 7-5
I can’t tell you how disappointing games like this one are. Atlanta should have won. There’s no going around it. They had the lead almost the entire game. Their starting pitch was good, and they provided multiple runs. But the Braves’ bullpen is so unstable, it’s just frustrating. Brian Snitker brought their least reliable bullpen pitcher onto pitch, A.J. Minter. And Minter did nothing good for the Braves, but instead he gave up the lead… and the game.
Drew Smyly did not pitch a bad game for the Atlanta Braves. He went 5.2 innings, allowed four hits, three runs, two walks and he had six strikeouts. Overall, his stuff wasn’t bad, he just misplaced a couple of pitches and the Rays didn’t miss them.
The Braves got off to a good start. In the bottom of the first inning, my man, Ozzie Albies had an RBI double that scored Freddie Freeman making it 1-0 Atlanta.
Atlanta scored two more in the bottom of the fourth inning. One on an RBI double by Guillermo Heredia that scored Orlando Arcia, and the other on an RBI groundout to make it 3-0 Braves.
In the fifth and sixth innings, Tampa Bay came on and tied the game at three apiece.
Joc Pederson broke the tie in the bottom of the sixth inning when he had an RBI double that scored Braves’ catcher Stephen Vogt, making it 5-4, Atlanta back on top.
However, in the top of the seventh inning, A.J. Minter blew the game for the Braves. He allowed three runs, giving the Rays the lead.
Atlanta got one run closer in the bottom of the seventh when Stephen Vogt had an RBI single to score Freeman. However, the Braves couldn’t pull anything else off, so the final score remained at 7-5, Rays.
Overall, this was a frustrating series for our Atlanta Braves. They should have won the entire series… definitely game three, but as we saw, bad relief pitching will take away a win in a heartbeat.
** After game three of this series A.J. Minter was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett. Hopefully he will learn how to pitch well again and become a key asset in the Braves bullpen.