This weekend brought out a rarity for the Braves.
A four-game losing streak.
The Braves lost to the Astros, 5-2, on Sunday at Truist Park. They had not been swept, and had not lost four in a row, since 2021.
Five observations on Atlanta’s loss:
1. The stage was set for the rematch: With Yordan Alvarez up to bat with the bases loaded in a two-run game, A.J. Minter ran in from the bullpen. Two days before, Alvarez had blasted a two-run homer off Minter that decided the game.
This was Minter’s chance for payback.
Instead, Alvarez drilled a two-run single to tie the game.
Here’s the behind-the scenes version: On Friday, Alvarez homered on a cutter away. Minter knew Alvarez, with his long arms, likes the breaking ball away. But if you throw it further away, he might chase it.
Minter took that knowledge into this at-bat.
“I was trying to throw a ball there, and I wanted it down,” Minter said. “That’s all I was trying to do to set up a fastball for the next pitch, and unfortunately he got to it. Right now, it’s frustrating because I executed what I wanted to do, just didn’t get to put him away. He’s one of the best hitters in the world. But I’m definitely anxious to get back out there and pitch to him again.”
This cutter was lower than the one Friday. Still, Alvarez hit it.
Facing Braves pitching this weekend, Alvarez drove in six runs.
2. After Minter let in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, Braves manager Brian Snitker went to lefty Danny Young – somewhat of a surprising move at the time. Snitker has a couple better options for this spot, namely lefty Dylan Lee.
But Lee was off the last two days of this series. He has thrown 11 times this season, one off the major-league lead.
The Braves, Snitker said, must be cautious with their bullpen. They are in a stretch of 17 consecutive games before their next off day on May 8.
They had to be smart, even if the results didn’t pan out, as Young hit a batterr before giving up a two-run single.
“That’s tough,” Snitker said. “And these guys have done an unbelievable job. We played three weeks without any of these hiccups. And they’re gonna happen. It’s gonna give other guys in that bullpen opportunities in high-leverage situations. In the long run, it could end up being a good thing, playing 17 in a row and you have to use everybody.”
3. In a scoreless game in the fifth inning, Kevin Pillar hit a home run. Before this, he had gone 585 days since his last home run, which came Sept. 15, 2021, against St. Louis lefty Jon Lester.
With Michael Harris II on the injured list, Pillar is one of the outfielders who has seen more playing time. He’s played great defense, and on Sunday provided a spark with his homer.
“I think I never lost sight of who I am as a player and what I could bring to the table, it’s just sometimes you need opportunity to present itself to show that you could still go out there and make a play or hit one over the fence,” Pillar said. “It’s definitely rewarding to be put in those situations to be able to kind of reiterate the thoughts I have for myself and show this organization that I could still play at a high level.”
4. Max Fried shut out the Astros over 6-2/3 innings. He struck out five batters while walking three. He only allowed three hits.
Since returning from the injured list, Fried has not allowed a run over 11-2/3 frames.
“These two outings are like Max is back,” Snitker said. “He’s good to go. That was really good.”
5. Through 19 games, the Braves had not blown a single lead.
Then they coughed up three on three straight days.
“They don’t give up, and that’s what it takes to be a World Series champion,” Minter said of the Astros. “That’s what they were. But so are we. We’re not gonna give up, we’re gonna keep going. We’re still in a good position, it’s still early in the season. I’d rather take being in this position than (where) we were last year at this point.”
The Braves are 14-8. Through 22 games, last year’s Braves were 10-12.
Stat to know
24 - Fried picked off a runner in the third inning. Since his debut in 2017, his 24 successful pickoffs are the most in baseball – five more than anyone else.
“Kind of my rule of thumb is, I go back and watch my outing. I can be frustrated today, but once I come to the field tomorrow, it’s gone. You’ve got to move on. Nothing you can do about it. Just go out there, continue to make your pitches and do everything you can, and be confident. Whenever you lose that confidence, the hitters can smell it.” -Minter
On Monday at 7:20 p.m., the Braves and Marlins will play the first of four games. Spencer Strider will face Miami right-hander Edward Cabrera.
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