Braves lose in Tucker Davidson’s MLB debut

Tucker Davidson will have better performances in his future, but Saturday night, he could celebrate officially became a major leaguer.

The Braves lost to the Red Sox, 8-2, at Truist Park in Davidson’s debut. The left-hander recorded only five outs and was charged with seven runs, though only two were earned. He was haunted by erratic command and two key defensive miscues.

Davidson struck out Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers to begin his career. He did so with a fastball-curveball mix. After walking Xander Bogaerts, he coaxed a flyout to right from J.D. Martinez to wrap up his first frame.

The game went downhill after Davidson retired Christian Vazquez to start the second inning. He walked Jackie Bradley Jr. on four pitches. Bobby Dalbec hammered a fastball into the left-center seats for two runs.

Michael Chavis hit a grounder to third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria, who botched the ball. It was Hechavarria’s fourth error in three nights as he fills in for Austin Riley. Christian Arroyo’s single gave the Red Sox two on with one out.

Davidson then walked Verdugo – his third base on balls – but seemed to get exactly what he needed in the next at-bat. Devers grounded to shortstop Dansby Swanson, who couldn’t cleanly field the ball, either. The Braves only got the out at second instead of an inning-ending double play. Chavis scored to make it 3-0.

“I think the home run made me more mad (than the defensive mistakes) because I should’ve made a better pitch,” Davidson said. “I left a fastball down the middle. You can’t get mad at errors because you’re going to walk guys. You’re going to do these things because it’s baseball and we’re all human. You can’t get mad about those. You have to embrace it and keep moving.”

The Braves stuck with Davidson, who should’ve been out of the inning. Bogaerts singled, scoring Arroyo. Davidson walked Martinez, loading the bases, and Snitker turned to his bullpen.

Vazquez hit a grand slam on the second pitch from reliever Grant Dayton. The Red Sox completed an eight-run inning that awarded them their first win over the Braves in five tries.

“The first inning I was just trying to control the emotions and settle down as much as I could,” Davidson said. “The second inning, I got a little too excited and tried to do too much instead of just taking that step back and going back to what I do.”

Only two of the seven runs Davidson allowed were earned. He allowed three hits, struck out two and walked four. While the walks hurt him greatly, even one of Hechavarria or Swanson fielding the ball cleanly could’ve changed his night.

“There were a lot of things that happened in that (second) inning that were out of his control,” manager Brian Snitker said. "He got groundballs and very easily could’ve gotten out of that inning with a couple runs and we probably go late into the game in a 2-1 game. So there were a lot of things that happened that were out of his control. He’ll get another opportunity at some point.

“But I thought he handled that situation. He kept pitching, went after them and never gave in. It’s a shame we couldn’t watch him play a little more.”

Davidson said he received encouraging words from fellow starter Kyle Wright, who’s endured his own share of inconsistency, in the clubhouse following the game. Wright told him, “You’re going to get over this hump. You got your feet wet. You’re a big leaguer now.”

Indeed, the Braves promoted Davidson, 24, so he’d get his first taste of the majors as the season winds down. They had already locked up the National League East and the NL’s No. 2 seed, so the game was irrelevant to the standings. It will be an experience Davidson can look back on before making his second start.

“This isn’t my first bad outing and it’s probably not going to be my last,” Davidson said. “This game is incredibly hard. You see guys struggle each and every day. You have guys who go 0-for-4, guys who can’t get out of the first inning. This is a very challenging game. It’s really hard so you have to keep going, take it day-by-day and keep pushing.”

Notes from Saturday:

- Swanson got the Braves on the board with a solo shot in the fifth inning. He’s homered three times in his past five games since a 10-game homer drought.

- First baseman Freddie Freeman, who might be nearing his first MVP award, went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Freeman doubled in the eighth and scored on Travis d’Arnaud’s single.

- Whenever the Braves suffer a rare blowout loss, the silver lining is usually the same: The bullpen did a great job after the starter struggled. Saturday followed that script after Dayton surrendered the home run.

Dayton pitched 2-2/3 innings, allowing two hits, including the homer. Jacob Webb, Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter combined to allow three hits and no runs over the last 4-2/3 innings.

“He’s done a really good job for us,” Snitker said of Dayton, who owns a 2.30 ERA in 18 appearances. “He gives us four pretty good left-handed relievers in that bullpen.”

- Bryse Wilson will start the Braves' regular season finale Sunday against the Red Sox. Wilson impressed in his last outing, striking out seven over five scoreless innings in his first start this season.