Blue Jays win again, sweep Braves

The Braves will be quite happy not to see a spring-training stadium again until next year.

They lost all three games of a weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays at cozy TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., completing the dismal visit with a 7-2 defeat Sunday afternoon. The series was played at the Jays’ spring home because of Canada’s strict COVID-19 regulations.

The weekend went so poorly for the Braves that even Ian Anderson, who hadn’t allowed a run across 13-2/3 innings in his two previous starts, gave up four runs on six hits in four difficult innings of work on his 23rd birthday Sunday. It was his shortest start of the season.

“It’s tough following up two really good (starts) with one like this,” Anderson said, “but that’s part of it. So we’ll move on from this one, and hopefully there will be many more like those last two.”

Sunday’s loss was the Braves’ fourth in a row, their third four-game losing streak of the season. They are four games under .500, 12-16, going into a three-game series against the Nationals that starts Tuesday in Washington.

“This is some kind of grind that we’ve been going through for the last five weeks since we started this season,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “and there’s nothing to do but just continue to grind through it.”

The Braves had their best opportunity of Sunday’s game in the fifth inning when, trailing 4-1, the bottom of the order loaded the bases with no outs on a single by Austin Riley (one of his four hits in the game, raising his batting average to .329), a walk by William Contreras and a bunt single by Cristian Pache.

But after Ronald Acuna drove home Riley with a sacrifice fly to deep center field, Blue Jays left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki struck out Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, continuing their uncharacteristic struggles this season against lefties. Freeman is 2-for-27 and Ozuna 1-for-23 against them.

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (left) is tagged out by Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. after being caught in a rundown between first and second base during the sixth inning Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (Mike Carlson/AP)

Credit: Mike Carlson

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Credit: Mike Carlson

As a team, the Braves have MLB’s second-worst batting average against left-handers, .179, better only than Detroit.

Another concern exacerbated this weekend was the Braves pitching staff’s tendency to allow home runs. It has allowed an MLB-high 42 in 28 games, making for a bad combination with a spring-training stadium where the ball is known to carry extremely well.

The Braves lost the first game of the series 13-5 on Friday night when the Blue Jays slammed six homers, including three against Drew Smyly. The Braves lost the second game 6-5 in 10 innings on Saturday night, the Jays hitting two more homers. One homer was hit in Sunday’s series finale, a two-run shot by Marcus Semien in the eighth inning off Braves reliever Sean Newcomb to increase Toronto’s lead from 4-2 to 6-2.

The Blue Jays hit nine homers in the series, compared to three by the Braves.

All weekend, before crowds of less than 2,000, the Jays showed off a deep batting order and a deep bullpen.

“It’s definitely different,” Anderson said of playing in the one-deck stadium. “The ball seemed to be flying the past two games, not so much (Sunday). It’s not a big crowd, and you kind of have to create your own energy.”