In their first game following the All-Star break, the Braves had a flurry of good offensive production, but not timely enough to overcome the bullpen and get the win against the Rays, falling 7-6 in 10 innings Friday night at Truist Park. The Braves are 44-46.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
1. The good juju that the Braves bullpen had built up the week or so before the break ran out Friday night.
After another good start from Charlie Morton, the bullpen gave up five runs over four innings. A.J. Minter allowed a run after two walks in the seventh and Chris Martin let two Rays score off of four hits.
Martin, who has given up eight earned runs in his past 12 appearances, pitched the eighth inning. The two earned runs he allowed tied the game 6-6.
“It’s probably just location more than anything,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “(Chris Martin) has had some really good ones too. He seems fine to me. I think it’s just executing pitches is what it boils down to.”
After Martin’s inning, Will Smith pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts. Then Jesse Chavez allowed the game-winning unearned run to score in the 10th inning. Chavez (0-2), who hadn’t allowed a run in his last four appearances before Friday, has 14 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings pitched.
2. Morton is 37 years old and is arguably the most consistent pitcher in the Braves organization right now. In Friday’s loss, the righty went six innings and allowed just three runs and six hits, while walking three and striking out eight. He threw 107 pitches.
Snitker said before the game that he was amazed with how good the righty had been this season.
“Charlie did a great job going six (innings),” Snitker said after the game. “He had some struggles, but that was huge for him going six innings.”
Morton’s only struggle came in the second inning. He hit Austin Meadows to lead off the inning, Joey Wendle hit a double to move Meadows to third base and Kevin Kiermaier hit an RBI single. Mike Zunino’s grounder scored Wendle and give the Rays a 2-0 lead.
Morton walked two more Rays in the inning, but also struck out two to leave the inning without any further damage.
“The problem there was the leadoff hit-by-pitch to Meadows there,” Morton said. “The problem was Meadows and that has been happening where I’ve been hitting guys with my breaking ball.”
Morton has hit 13 batters this season. Still though, it was his fifth outing with at least eight strikeouts.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
3. Freddie Freeman was relaxed and wore a reserved smile after the game. Despite the team’s loss, the Braves first baseman was pleased with both his and the rest of the lineup’s offensive effort.
All he could do was sit back and wonder why after falling the way they did Friday.
In the bottom of the ninth and the score tied at 6, the Braves sent leadoff hitter Abraham Almonte to the plate. He struck out. Freeman hit a single while the 40,000 fans chanted his name. Ozzie Albies struck out after Freeman stole second base. Austin Riley, who hit his 15th homer of the season in the fourth inning, hit a fly ball to right field to end the inning and send the game to extra innings.
“We had everything perfectly set up,” Freeman said. “We had the right guys where we wanted them and it just didn’t happen. A loss is a loss. It felt like we had it rolling, everything going perfectly according to plan throughout the game and had the right guys at the right time.”
To lead off the 10th, Orlando Arcia grounded out, Dansby Swanson flied out and newly acquired Joc Pederson grounded out to end the game.
Freeman, Riley and Swanson each hit homers in the game, making up for the absence of the injured Ronald Acuna. Arcia hit an RBI single, too.
Freeman’s final line Friday night: four hits, two runs, two RBIs.
“(I’m) doing anything I can to get this team into the playoffs,” Freeman said. “That is my only goal. We know what kind of stretch we have going into the trade deadline so my job is to make it easy on (general manager Alex Anthopoulos) to go and add. I have no distractions right now, all I care about is getting more runs than the other team.”
4. Swanson hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to give the Braves their first lead of the night. It was his 16th homer of the season.
The long shot also extended the shortstop’s hitting streak to five games. He has nine hits, six RBIs and two home runs in that stretch.
“He has been swinging the bat really well the last couple of weeks,” Snitker said. “It’s been really encouraging. Hopefully he continues it.”
5. Pederson entered the game to a standing ovation in the bottom of the 10th. There were two outs, a man on second and the Braves trailed by one run.
He swung at the first pitch and grounded out, losing out in a sprint to first base to end the game.
“No one is asking anyone to replace Ronald because that is pretty much impossible,” Freeman said. “Having Joc, who won last year, has been in big moments come through ... he’s a guy that is a game-changer at any point he comes up to the plate.”
Pederson was activated about two hours before the first pitch after being acquired less than 24 hours before.
“It’s nice to have Alex show us that we’re still going for it,” Freeman said of the trade. “It’ll be nice to get him in there going in our lineup every day.”
Rays 7, Braves 6 (box score)
Stat to know
6 (The Braves have six losses when leading after the seventh inning, tied for the most in MLB)
“You score six runs you should win, really.” (Snitker on creating offense)
Lefty Max Fried (6-5, 4.71) is slated to get the start against Rays lefty Josh Fleming (7-4, 3.26) Saturday at 7:20 p.m. at Truist Park.
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