In the eighth inning of the Braves’ 4-2 loss in Miami on Saturday, Marlins slugger Jesus Aguilar checked his swing, accidently making contact with a ball that wound up clearing the infield and scoring Miami’s last run.
“That’s pretty much where we’re at,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Indeed, the Braves seemed to build momentum when they took two of three from the Dodgers last weekend, but that’s proved to be a mirage. Now, the team has to figure out how to stop its latest slide before it slips too far out of the picture.
The latest misstep came Saturday. Unable to solve Marlins starter Zach Thompson, the Braves lost their fourth consecutive game. They fell to 29-33, continuing a disturbing trend of losing streaks after reaching the .500 mark. To complete another poor day, the Mets defeated the Padres, pushing the Braves to six games back in the National League East.
Miami struck quickly. Braves starter Max Fried issued a leadoff walk to dynamic Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisholm to start the game. Chisholm, after advancing to second on a grounder and third on a wild pitch, scored on a sacrifice fly.
It was a sign of things to come for the Braves, who desperately tried to generate offense, but were stifled by Thompson across five scoreless innings.
“He was throwing it over,” Snitker said. “Just attacking the strike zone. I watched his last start. He was up in the zone a lot with his cutter and slider. He kept the ball down better today. We couldn’t do anything with him.”
The Braves’ best scoring chance against the righty came in the third, when Fried attempted to score on a sacrifice fly but was thrown out at home. Again, that’s how the ball is rolling for these Braves. Their margin for error has been extremely slim. Saturday was a prime example: Each of the four Marlins who scored had two strikes during their at-bats.
Marlins 4, Braves 2 (box score)
Former Braves outfielder Adam Duvall homered on an 0-2 pitch from Fried in the fourth. It was Duvall’s 12th homer, four of which have come against the Braves. He has feasted against an old employer.
Fried gave up solo homers to Duvall and Lewin Diaz in the fourth and fifth frames, respectively. Entering the day, Fried hadn’t allowed a home run since his May 5 start against Washington, a stretch of five outings and over 30 innings.
“You get two strikes on guys, you have to make quality pitches,” Fried said. “Fastball was a little too down, and Duvey put a good swing on it. And I left a slider in the middle of the plate (against Diaz). When you have two strikes and you throw some not-quality pitches, that’s what happens.”
After Thompson’s exit, Freddie Freeman led off the sixth with a single, but Ozzie Albies grounded into his first double play since 2019 to erase the base runner. The offense, which even through its struggles packed punch, had one extra-base hit through seven innings, a two-out Abraham Almonte double that ultimately didn’t harm the Marlins.
Freeman smashed a two-run homer in the eighth to pull the Braves within a run. It was Freeman’s 15th homer and second in three days. He also hit a late game-tying homer in Philadelphia. Freeman is seeking any welcome results after he’s been plagued by misfortune and uncharacteristic struggles through 62 games.
“Freddie, you watch him day in and day out, he’s hitting balls hard all over the place,” Fried said. “It just hasn’t been finding any grass. So it’s nice he’s been able to find some holes and hit some balls out. His mentality has been the same. He’s been the same guy going out there putting up competitive, quality at-bats, and it’s nice to see some balls falling for him.”
After going 10-1 in Fried’s starts last season, the Braves fell to 4-6 in his outings this time around. It’s just another facet of what’s been a maddening season for the Braves, whose long-desired recovery didn’t begin Saturday. Fried was the team’s stopper, but without much offensive support, there’s only so much he can do.
The Braves will try to avoid a three-game sweep Sunday. Drew Smyly (2-3, 5.82 ERA) will face Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez (2-3, 2.76).
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