The Braves’ bullpen continues to have issues.
The group has underwhelmed recently, and the trend continued in Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Truist Park.
1. With two outs in the sixth inning and a runner at first base, Braves manager Brian Snitker exited the dugout to take the ball from Jared Shuster.
“He’s done his job, getting us to that point,” Snitker said of Shuster.
Snitker opted for righty Joe Jiménez to face right-handed hitting J.T. Realmuto. We can debate whether Snitker should’ve allowed Shuster to finish the inning. But this would be shining the light on the wrong part.
The issue is this: The bullpen must do its job.
This group has talent. Bullpens can go through rough stretches, but many of us thought this unit would be a strength for the Braves.
That has not been the case recently.
Here’s how it happened this time: Jiménez walked consecutive batters to load the bases, then allowed a two-run single as the Phillies grabbed the lead.
In the seventh inning, Lucas Luetge gave up two more runs. He threw 42 pitches and didn’t make it out of the inning.
The problem isn’t necessarily these two specifically. They just furthered the bullpen’s recent struggles.
“It’s hard,” Snitker said of how difficult it is when multiple relievers are struggling at one time. “We had a couple of our back-end guys that were down today and we had a hard time bridging to get to the guys we wanted to, really.”
Raisel Iglesias and Nick Anderson had both pitched in each of the last two games.
2. Entering Friday, the Braves’ bullpen had a 4.86 ERA.
That ranked 24th in baseball.
“When you’re in close games and all that, eventually you gotta put some of the guys down,” Snitker said of Friday’s loss, in which he didn’t have multiple top relievers. “That puts everybody in different (spots in) the back end. It just gives other guys a chance to do something really good.”
The problem is that, at this point, most of the relievers are struggling.
The bullpen hasn’t had a scoreless performance since May 19 – a span of seven games.
“That’s a good team on the other side, so they put some good swings on some balls,” Michael Harris II said of Friday’s loss. “Even when we have the bullpen that we have, it just happens. I feel like we do the same thing with (their bullpen) sometimes.”
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
3. In the fifth inning, Harris blasted a two-run home run to give the Braves the lead at the time. It had to have been a sigh of relief for the struggling hitter.
“Made contact and didn’t feel the barrel, so that’s always a good feeling,” he said. “Getting something out of it makes it even better. Just trying to help my team win. I haven’t really done that lately, but today, I feel like I’m getting back in a groove and feeling confident again.”
Before Friday, Harris was 1-for-27 over his last eight games. It can be difficult to keep a positive attitude in a game predicated on failure.
“It’s really tough,” Harris said. “You’ve got to keep telling yourself to stay patient, and just believe in yourself and play the game that you play. Just staying within yourself and doing what you know you can do.”
4. Shuster was charged with three runs. He struck out five and walked three.
Overall, this was a good performance against a great lineup. He continues looking more comfortable.
5. A second-inning mistake cost the Braves.
Standing at third base, Marcell Ozuna hesitated when Ozzie Albies hit a ground ball to first base. Then Ozuna took off. But it was too late.
Phillies first baseman Alec Bohm fired the ball to third and caught Ozuna in a rundown.
After the game, Ozuna said he has to go when that ball is hit.
“It was my fault,” Ozuna said. “It was my responsibility to score no matter what because the infield was back.”
But Ozuna made up for it by homering in the eighth – his third blast in as many games. It cut the deficit to two runs.
Eventually, former Brave Craig Kimbrel earned his 400th career save. He’s the second former Brave – joining Kenley Jansen earlier this month – to collect save No. 400 at this ballpark this year.
Phillies 6, Braves 4
Stat to know
10 - The Braves collected 10 hits off Phillies starter Taijuan Walker. Before this game, they were 4-0 this season in games in which they amassed at least 10 hits off the opposing starter. They had won their last 25 games when doing so. (The last loss in one of these contests came in 2017.)
“Even this week, not getting the results I wanted, I felt good about it. I felt like I was putting some good swings on it. I guess sometimes I tried to do too much and got out of my zone, and it caused me to have some failure. But I feel like now that I’m telling myself who I am and what I’ve been doing, that’s been helping me. I feel like I’m gonna start having some success now.” - Harris
Charlie Morton will face Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler on Saturday. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m.
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