All three games in the Astros-Braves series followed a familiar script: The Braves have a lead, then the Astros mount a comeback and steal a victory.

Sunday might have been the most gut-wrenching loss of the three.

The Braves saw their lead vanish when Yordan Alvarez – who terrorized them this weekend – laced a two-out, two-run single off A.J. Minter that tied the game in the top of the eighth inning. And in the ninth inning, Minter gave up a two-out, two-run single to Corey Julks that scored the go-ahead run.

The Braves lost to the Astros, 5-2, as Houston left Truist Park with a sweep. The Braves have lost four games in a row for the first time since Aug. 14-18 of 2021, when they dropped two apiece to Colorado and San Francisco.

“They won the World Series last year,” Max Fried said. “They’re no slouches. They pitch really well, they hit really well. We didn’t play our best, but it’s part of it. It’s still April. We still have a lot of season left.”

The Braves had the perfect setup for a win. Fried kept the Astros off the board. The Braves scored two runs off Astros starter Cristian Javier.

Then the Braves’ bullpen unraveled.

Fried held Houston, the team he closed out in the 2021 World Series, scoreless over 6-2/3 innings, and departed with a two-run lead. The Braves needed seven more outs.

They went to Nick Anderson, who entered with runners on first and second before ending the inning with a strikeout. Anderson ran back out for the eighth, and recorded two outs. He also loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, which is why the Braves summoned Minter.

On Friday, Alvarez hammered a go-ahead, two-run homer off Minter. The Braves’ reliable lefty received a rematch. But Alvarez laced a cutter away – a similar pitch to the one he homered on two days before, though this was a bit lower – and knotted the score.

The Braves sent Minter out for the top of the ninth, and he allowed a leadoff single before issuing a one-out walk. Julks gave the Astros the lead with his single.

“I mean, it’s just frustrating. That’s all it is,” Minter said. “Just going back. I don’t know what I can change. I just went out there and I made some pretty good pitches. That’s baseball. I know y’all probably want a better answer in that, but I wish I could give you one, I wish I knew. I can’t be too discouraged about it, because I thought I made some pretty good pitches, and the ball was just hit where we weren’t.”

After the go-ahead run scored, Braves manager Brian Snitker opted for left-hander Danny Young, who hit a batter then served up a two-run single that gave Houston a three-run lead.


Or not.

The Braves, who almost always make it interesting, put the first two men on base versus Bryan Abreu in the bottom of the ninth. It looked like they had something cooking, but Eddie Rosario hit into a double play before Sam Hilliard struck out to end the game.

Young will likely be optioned soon when injured players return. The move to put him on the mound seemed curious. But after the game, Snitker said lefty Dylan Lee, a better option in that spot, was off the final two games of the series because of his heavy workload.

“We just gotta be careful with these guys,” Snitker said, “because they’ve carried a big load so far.”

The teams were scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Kevin Pillar – a veteran on his seventh different team – launched his first home run of the season. To that point, Javier had dominated the Braves, who might have found themselves in a hole if not for Fried’s terrific performance.

This was a blow, as it seemed the Braves were four outs away from a victory.

The Braves scored two runs during Javier’s six innings on the mound. Based on how Javier and Fried were pitching, this was a nice output. At one point, Javier had struck out seven straight Braves. He struck out 10 batters. He only allowed three hits while walking two batters, but the Braves made the most of those opportunities.

One hit was Pillar’s homer. Another was Ronald Acuña Jr.’s double. After a one-out walk, Acuña eventually scored when Matt Olson’s slide into second base on a would-be double play forced an errant throw that went over the first baseman’s head, allowing Acuña to go home.

Eventually, the Braves watched their two-run lead evaporate, then turn into a three-run deficit.

For the first time in a long time, the Braves are on a four-game losing streak. They’ll try to get back on track over four home games versus the Marlins, beginning Monday.

“We’ve been a really consistent ballclub,” Fried said. “We expect to come to the field every day and win. Nothing’s gonna change coming in tomorrow. We’re extremely confident to have Spencer (Strider) on the mound. Just kind of turn the page.”