Braves lose to Brewers despite seven-run inning

Huascar Ynoa wasn’t the dominant pitcher — or hitter — Sunday that Braves fans may have come to expect recently.

After allowing four runs (three earned) across 24-1/3 innings in his previous four starts, the 22-year-old right-hander surrendered five runs in 4-1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. And after hitting two home runs and posting a 1.300 slugging percentage at the plate in his previous four starts, he was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts this time.

The Braves trailed 5-0 in Milwaukee when Ynoa left the game in the fifth inning and fell behind 8-0 in the sixth. They went on to lose 10-9 despite a stirring seven-run rally in the seventh inning, capped by a Freddie Freeman grand slam.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is congratulated by Ehire Adrianza (left) after hitting a grand slam during the seventh inning Sunday, May 16, 2021, against the Brewers in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/AP)

Credit: Morry Gash

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Credit: Morry Gash

“It happened very fast,” Braves third baseman Austin Riley, who had two hits and three walks in the game, said of the seven-run explosion. “That’s just baseball sometimes. It surprises you in so many ways. ... We’ve just got to keep coming out there fighting every day, and things are going to start going our way.”

“It was great to see the guys keep coming back and having good at-bats and getting big hit after big hit. That was awesome,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “In the middle there, we just didn’t do a real good job of damage control to give ourselves a chance.”

The game marked roughly the one-quarter point in the Braves’ season. They are 19-21, still not having gotten above .500 this year, and open a three-game series against the National League East rival New York Mets at Truist Park on Monday night.

Over his previous four starts before Sunday, all wins, Ynoa had driven in more runs as a hitter (six) than he had given up as a pitcher (four). In those starts, he had a 1.11 ERA and a 1.300 slugging percentage, making him the first player since Babe Ruth in 1916 to have a sub-1.30 ERA and 1.300-plus slugging percentage (minimum 10 plate appearances) over a four-start stretch.

But on Sunday, the Brewers had baserunners in every inning against Ynoa, collecting nine hits and two walks.

“The pitches weren’t really going my way, and I was missing with the spots,” Ynoa said through an interpreter. “You have your good days, and you have your bad days, and you learn from the bad days.”

“I think you saw a young kid that is taking another step,” Snitker said. “He had some adversity. ... It just didn’t go his way, and he didn’t help himself, I guess you could put it like that.”

A two-out full-count double to deep right field by Daniel Vogelbach gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Another two-out run in the fourth and a two-run homer by Avisail Garcia in the fifth made the score 5-0. Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte almost took the home run away from Garcia with a leaping catch, but the ball fell out of the end of his glove, outstretched above the wall.

The Brewers scored three more runs in the sixth inning against Braves reliever Jesse Biddle, who walked three consecutive batters on four pitches each, to expand their lead to 8-0.

Then the Braves mounted their seven-run rally on just three hits in the seventh inning, aided by two walks and defensive breakdowns in the middle of the Milwaukee infield. Freeman’s 411-foot grand slam to center field made it a one-run game, briefly, at 8-7.

The Brewers scored twice in the bottom of the seventh for a 10-7 lead, both runs charged to Josh Tomlin, and that was more than the Braves could overcome, although they scored a run in the eighth and another in the ninth. The game finally ended when Milwaukee closer Josh Hader struck out William Contreras with two runners on base.

“We don’t second-guess anything we did today,” Snitker said. In response to questions about his usage of relievers Biddle and Tomlin, Snitker said the bullpen had several pitchers unavailable.

“Everybody in the bullpen has got to share the load, because we cannot keep using the core group of guys and have them (all season),” Snitker said. “We’ve got, what, eight-nine guys. They’re all going to have to step up and do it.”