Braves lose to Jays despite Pache grand slam

Atlanta Braves Cristian Pache celebrates as he rounds the bases after his grand slam home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Atlanta Braves Cristian Pache celebrates as he rounds the bases after his grand slam home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Credit: Mike Carlson

Credit: Mike Carlson

Five takeaways from the Braves’ 6-5 loss in 10 innings to the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., on Saturday night:

1. Welcome back

Cristian Pache celebrated his return to the big leagues with a grand slam in his first at-bat after rejoining the Braves from their alternate training site.

Optioned to the Gwinnett site to work on his hitting, the 22-year-old rookie was recalled to the big-league team and reinstalled as the Braves’ starting center fielder Saturday morning when Guillermo Heredia went on the injured list. With the bases loaded and two out in the second inning Saturday night, Pache blasted a 2-2 changeup from Toronto pitcher Tommy Milone – briefly a Brave last year -- over the left-field fence to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.

“I’m really happy and excited to be back,” Pache said through an interpreter.

The 411-foot shot was quite the return for Pache, who opened this season as the Braves’ center fielder but struggled mightily at the plate before going on the 10-day injured list April 14 with a strained left groin. At that point, he had a .133 batting average across 11 games. When he came off the IL on April 24, the Braves optioned him to the alternate site.

2. Key injury to d’Arnaud

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud will go on the injured list after leaving the game with a left thumb injury.

“Jammed his thumb, screwed it up, so he’s going to be put on the IL,” manager Brian Snitker said late Saturday night. “They’ll fly him back to Atlanta in the morning and have our doctors check him out further.”

The injury occurred in the sixth inning when d’Arnaud was applying a tag at the plate. The Toronto baserunner, Randal Grichuk, was out. But d’Arnaud appeared in pain as he left the field.

“It’s not good,” Snitker said, “but until our doctors back in Atlanta can check him out we don’t know 100% (the severity).”

D’Arnaud was replaced behind the plate for the rest of the game by Alex Jackson. Snitker said catcher William Contreras will be promoted to the big-league team Sunday.

3. Early lead not enough

The Braves’ early 4-0 lead gradually slipped away. The Blue Jays finally tied the game in the seventh inning, 5-5, on a long solo home run by George Springer off reliever Luke Jackson. A.J. Minter retired the Blue Jays 1-2-3 in the eighth. Will Smith pitched a scoreless ninth to send the game to extra innings.

Toronto won it in the 10th on Grichuk’s two-out single to center off Nate Jones, scoring a pinch-runner for the runner placed on second base to start the inning under MLB’s extra-inning rules.

4. How Braves’ starter fared

Charlie Morton needed 98 pitches to work 5-1/3 innings. He allowed four runs, including one inherited runner who scored after he left the game. Two runners he put on base with a hit-by-pitch and a walk in the sixth inning scored.

“I felt we did a pretty good job to limit the damage, especially in this park against that lineup,” Morton said. “But the sixth inning, just free passes, that’s so frustrating.”

5. Launching pad

One night after seven home runs were hit at TD Ballpark on Friday, six by the Blue Jays and one by the Braves, four more homers were hit in the second game of the series.

Springer hit two of them: a 354-foot homer to right field off Morton and a 470-foot homer to left off Jackson. For the Braves, in addition to Pache’s grand slam, Ronald Acuna hit a 422-foot solo shot to left, his ninth homer of the season.

Notable number

.348: Pablo Sandoval’s batting average this season after he went 2-for-3 (plus a walk) as the Braves’ designated hitter Saturday. He’s 8-for-23 on the season with three home runs.

Quotable

“We had the deck stacked in our favor a couple of times and just couldn’t get a big hit to continue to add on runs.” -- Manager Brian Snitker

In Other News