Braves blow late lead, lose to Padres in game 1 of doubleheader

Atlanta Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia (11) throws the ball to first after San Diego Padres' Ha-Seong Kim (7) is out at second base in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia (11) throws the ball to first after San Diego Padres' Ha-Seong Kim (7) is out at second base in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

The Braves will be happy to get back on the field in a couple hours. They lost 6-5 to the Padres in game 1 of a doubleheader Monday at Truist Park, blowing a three-run lead in the eighth for their fourth straight loss.

Here are five observations from Monday’s first game:

1. A sign of how things are going for the Braves lately: Reliever Joe Jimenez, who’d generally been excellent, struggling mightily in the eighth. He was bit by a couple walks and allowed four runs on three hits. The Braves saw a 5-2 lead – once 5-0 – turn into a one-run deficit.

So the Braves, after scoring five runs in four frames off Padres ace Dylan Cease, wound up losing anyway. They’re at risk of being four-game swept at home by an up-and-down Padres team.

“When you’re going like we are right now,” manager Brian Snitker said as his thought tailed off. “It hasn’t been that long yet. It’s just one of those things where it happens. We’ve been through it before and we’ll probably go through it again.

“There’s nothing you can do but handle it. Just keep working, keep grinding and handle it. Because on the backend, there’s always something really good.”

2. Jimenez pitched poorly, but every reliever will have bad outings. This was truly his first rough showing of the season. Jimenez had allowed three earned runs over 17 innings before Monday, two of which came thanks to some wonky infield hits by the Guardians last month. Typically, even when Jimenez isn’t his best, he’d escape the frame unscathed. Monday was a rarity.

“It happens to everyone,” starter Reynaldo Lopez said of Jimenez’s outing (via team interpreter Franco Garcia). “Everyone has a bad day. No one likes to lose, no one likes to have those bad days. But that’s baseball and it happens. For someone in Joe’s situation, when you have nine good outings and one bad one, the only thing I’d say is forget about the bad one and focus on the nine good ones you did have.”

3. Cease, a Milton native, has been an early Cy Young candidate for the Padres, but the Braves’ sluggish offense came alive against him. They had five runs on nine hits in four innings, bumping his ERA from 2.45 to 3.05.

Cease allowed more than three runs in only one of his previous nine starts. He allowed five then, too, but in six innings. Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna and first baseman Matt Olson cranked back-to-back homers off him in the third; Cease had surrendered only three homers in 55 innings prior (and never more than one in an outing).

“That was a pretty good pitcher we scored five runs on,” Snitker said. “That’s going to even out and (the offense will) be what it’s capable of being at some point in time. All these guys aren’t going to go silent like that at once.”

Among the positives for the Braves: outfielder Ronald Acuña had his second three-hit game of the season. It came one night after he’d admitted he simply hadn’t been playing well. Ozuna continued his 12-game hitting streak. Olson, who’s slowly pulling himself out of a slow start, has a hit in 10 of his last 12 games.

4. Lopez outpitched Cease, allowing two runs on five hits over 6-1/3 innings. He struck out three without issuing a walk. Lopez’s remarkable season as a reliever-turned-starter has now yielded a 1.54 ERA through eight outings.

“I would’ve never expected things to have started the way they have or for things to be as good as they’ve been,” Lopez said. “With each outing, the arm becomes more and more adjusted. You get more used to the rhythm of it. My hope is things keep going well.”

5. Third baseman Austin Riley, who’s dealing with left-side soreness and hasn’t played since May 12, took grounders and threw on the side of the infield between games. But he still hasn’t been cleared to start swinging the bat again. There is no set date for his return. Veteran catcher Sean Murphy, meanwhile, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday.

Stat to know

4 (The Braves have lost four consecutive home games. The last time they lost five straight at Truist Park was in September 2017, the campaign prior to the club beginning its latest run of division titles.)

Quotable

“Once we get healthy again, get Austin and Murph (back), all of a sudden the lineup gets pretty long again, and pretty dangerous.” – Snitker

Up next

The Braves and Padres finish their series Monday evening with Chris Sale (6-1, 2.54) facing Randy Vasquez (0-2, 6.32).