Braves’ terrific bullpen has off night in loss to Mets

New York Mets' Brett Baty scores on a home run from New York Mets outfielder DJ Stewart during the eighth inning. 
Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

New York Mets' Brett Baty scores on a home run from New York Mets outfielder DJ Stewart during the eighth inning. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

In the final two innings, you knew what was coming. The Braves would storm back and tie the game. Then they would win it in dramatic fashion.

With the Mets in town, it seemed destined to happen. You have seen this movie many times.

Right?

Nope.

On the 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run, the Braves fell just short as they lost, 8-7, with the tying run standing on second base Monday night at Truist Park. Atlanta is 6-3 after losing a game it once led by four runs.

Five observations from the loss:

1. On Sunday, Braves relievers answered questions about holding the opponent scoreless over three consecutive games.

On Monday, Pierce Johnson and A.J. Minter stood at their lockers after the bullpen failed to keep the game within reach.

“It is what it is,” Johnson said. “That’s baseball, right? That’s why we play 162 of these things. Just one of those days. Just come back tomorrow and continue what we’re doing.”

“We just couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark today,” Minter said.

The Braves’ relievers saw their 14 2/3-innings scoreless streak – the longest active run in baseball – end when Brandon Nimmo homered off Nimmo in the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, DJ Stewart hammered a three-run shot off Johnson.

“Personally, I think I had probably my best stuff of the year so far and made one bad pitch, and Nimmo decided to have the game of his career, so props to him,” Minter said.

Johnson’s curveball has kept him in the majors. It’s his best pitch, and he uses it a lot.

This time, he left one in the middle of the plate.

“I’m never trying to throw a pitch middle-middle,” Johnson said. “He’d seen 14 curveballs today, and he got the last one. That’s on me. I didn’t put it where I wanted to and I tip my cap, he put a good swing on it.”

Nimmo’s homer tied the game, and Stewart gave New York a three-run lead.

But these are the Braves. It wasn’t over yet.

2. When Marcell Ozuna saw his hard-hit ball land in a glove in the ninth inning, he put his hands on his head in anguish. He thought he’d gotten all of it.

So did his manager.

“Yeah, I did,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I thought it was out as soon as he hit it.”

Instead, left fielder Tyrone Taylor made a nice grab on the run near the wall. A homer would’ve tied the game.

The next batter, Michael Harris II, drove in a run to trim the deficit to one. But Travis d’Arnaud flied out to right-center field to end the game.

You can often sense something: When the Braves are behind, opposing pitchers still aren’t comfortable.

“These guys keep coming at you – having good at-bat after good at-bat, and keeping the line moving,” Snitker said. “And teams know that – that these guys aren’t ever gonna be down or out in a game, as we’ve seen. It’s a tough ride regardless of how many runs we’re down because these guys just keep fighting.”

3. Before Monday, Atlanta’s relievers had allowed seven earned runs over 33 2/3 frames across eight games.

Versus the Mets, the bullpen permitted four earned runs across 3 1/3 innings.

“Well, they’re gonna give up runs,” Snitker said. “They’re not gonna go the whole season without anybody scoring on them. It’s gonna happen.”

This is true. They’re humans, not robots. And the Braves have crafted one of baseball’s best bullpens.

Their relievers will be a big part of many wins this season.

4. The Braves led the Mets, 4-0, after chasing their former pitcher, Julio Teheran, in the third inning.

On this night, Nimmo – who was 3-for-29 entering Monday – blasted a three-run homer that tied the game in the fifth before knotting it again in the seventh.

Charlie Morton, who allowed four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, gave up Nimmo’s first homer. It came on a middle-middle changeup.

“He’s able to wait,” Morton said of Nimmo. “I think he’s got a good ability to see the ball, see what’s coming at him and he’ll make a decision. He can make it late. He’s a guy that makes his decisions a little bit later and that makes it tough, because he’s able to foul off pitches and get into deep counts.”

Yes, the homer was on a 1-1 count …

“But I think there’s still that sense that Brandon can wait you out,” Morton said. “Sometimes the count dictates that, and sometimes the hitter lets you know that he’s willing to be patient. It was just a poorly executed pitch. And that’s exactly what happened. He saw a pitch that just stayed out over the plate and he waited. When you do that, you’re eliminating the effectiveness of a changeup, especially a changeup that’s not really moving that much.”

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5. Before the game, the Braves held a terrific ceremony to commemorate Aaron’s milestone.

A cool part: There were 715 A-list season-ticket members standing in the outfield. Each held a large baseball cutout representing one of Aaron’s homers.

“The Braves are a franchise that honor their players the way they should,” Morton said. “Today, I think that we’re very caught up in what we’re doing right now. It’s really nice to see that across baseball tonight, Hank was honored. I think this franchise does a great job with that.”

Stat to know

2.68 - The Braves’ bullpen still holds a 2.68 ERA over 37 innings this season. These guys should be just fine.

Quotable

“It’s awesome. It’s just a ton of wisdom and knowledge from everybody down there. We all have different perspectives, right? We all throw different. So being able to bounce ideas and then talk to each other and just kind of see their gameplan, your thoughts, what they’ve seen, who they’ve faced, it’s pretty cool and it’s a special group to be a part of.” - Johnson on the bullpen

Up next

On Tuesday at 7:20 p.m., Braves right-hander Reynaldo López will go up against right-hander Adrian Houser and the Mets.