The Braves opted for another bullpen game.

They got the same result.

Atlanta dropped Saturday’s game to the Mariners, 7-3. The teams will play for the series on Sunday at Truist Park.

Five observations:

1. The Braves have executed three bullpen games in their last nine games. They have lost all three.

“It’s just kind of like the situation we’re in as much as anything,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said about bullpen games before Saturday’s game. “We’d much rather have five starters going out there, but unfortunately, we don’t. And so we’re just kind of getting through as best we can to let things get panned out a little bit.”

Without Max Fried and Kyle Wright – both on the injured list – the Braves have had to get creative. They’ve maneuvered their pitching staff to consider all factors.

Three times, they have selected bullpen games. You could make the argument that they could’ve won two of them if they got a big hit in the first one and played better defense in the second.

“I think stabilizing your rotation is the key to being successful,” Snitker said after the game.” … There’s nothing that trumps that, I don’t think. Having a set rotation makes things happen.”

Are consistent bullpen games sustainable?

“Time will tell,” said Jesse Chavez, who opened this one. “I don’t think so. I think it’s a good stopgap for the time being, until we get the proper pieces in place. But we have enough guys down there (in the bullpen) that can handle the job. We’re all liable to take the ball any given day, any time and get as many outs as we can.”

2. We’ll soon get into the reasons the Braves may be picking bullpen games over bringing up starting pitchers. But first, let’s go over the game.

Chavez tossed 2 1/3 scoreless frames.

Michael Tonkin, who has been excellent this season, followed Chavez and struggled. He allowed five runs – two earned because of errors – on six hits over two frames. (One of those errors came on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s throw from right field, which hit the baserunner heading to third base. It wasn’t a costly error that impacted things. Point is, the Mariners knocked around Tonkin.)

“There were some hard-hit balls,” Snitker said. “He had one of them days. … That’s the only risk in these bullpen games is it’s gotta go almost perfect, and it’s hard to do that, because you’re running so many guys out there that one of them may have an off day. Tonk had an off day.”

In the seventh inning, Kirby Yates served up a two-run home run.

Seattle Mariners' Eugenio Suarez, second from left, holds a trident as he is greeted at the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves , Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

3. Why have the Braves done these bullpen games?

For one, the off days – on May 8, 11 and 18 – have allowed for them by giving the Braves’ bullpen extra rest.

Another reason: The Braves have used these bullpen games to buy time for Triple-A starters like Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd and Michael Soroka. They’ve wanted to see improvement. Shuster came up for Tuesday’s start, and will pitch Sunday.

“You’d like to see them go down there and string together some starts,” Snitker said. “I mean, those guys you talk about are all options, but they, as of yet, haven’t put together two, three, four starts in a row that you feel good about.”

Dodd on Saturday tossed four scoreless innings, and 73 pitches, for Triple-A Gwinnett before being removed. He’s healthy, but the Braves wanted to cap him at 75 pitches. This could mean he’d be the main option to start Thursday versus the Phillies on regular rest.

You’d be fair to question the Braves using bullpen games. They’d probably agree that this isn’t the ideal route, especially as their bullpen has shown cracks recently. And it seems like they won’t try another the next time around.

But to this point, they’ve felt bullpen days are their best option.

4. When Matt Olson launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning – his second home run in as many games – the Braves took an early two-run lead.

The first three Braves collected hits against Seattle’s Logan Gilbert. Then Atlanta didn’t have another hit until the sixth inning, and another run until the eighth.

5. A small dash of perspective: Despite everything, the Braves, at 28-17, have the best winning percentage in the National League. They lead the NL East by 4 1/2 games.

“We’re off to a better start than we were last year, too,” Olson said. “... With everything that’s happened, I think you gotta be happy that you look up and you’re in first place. We’ve had some pretty key guys go down, and not just one-or-two-day-type stuff.”

Stat to know

17 - The Braves have scored 17 runs within a game’s first 10 pitches, the most in the majors.


“You just grind through this six months and try and do the right thing. There’s still a lot of baseball. As long as you got a week or two, whatever, left, you have a chance to do something really good. We’ll just keep working toward that end.” - Snitker on weathering the storms during a season

Up next

Seattle righty George Kirby will face Shuster in Sunday’s series finale, which begins at 1:35 p.m.