Collin McHugh struggles as Braves lose finale in San Francisco

As the Braves leave San Francisco following Sunday’s 8-5 loss, they are in a nice spot.

In the NL East standings, they lead the second-place Phillies by 12.5 games. They lead the Dodgers for home-field advantage in the postseason by four games.

Five observations on Sunday’s loss:

1. Most everyone watching a baseball game is thinking about the current inning and its ramifications on the result. A manager, on the other hand, must have an eye toward the future while trying to balance the present.

This might be the best way to sum up why Braves manager Brian Snitker went to Collin McHugh in the fifth inning, then sent him back out for the sixth when he clearly didn’t have his best stuff.

The context is this: The Braves play three games at Coors Field – which often features games that decimate bullpens – and four at Dodger Stadium before their next off day.

“We got a rough week ahead of us,” Snitker said. “We didn’t really want to beat up any of those other guys chasing a win. Sometimes you gotta do your job, and we didn’t get it done today.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Snitker – whose Braves already had won the series – knew he needed to use McHugh, Michael Tonkin and Brad Hand in some form. And for what it’s worth, the Braves executed that plan, which helped reset their bullpen.

But McHugh didn’t get the job done.

He’s pitched well lately, but that didn’t dull the sting.

“No,” he said. “Days like this hurt. They’re never gonna feel good, but you gotta flush ‘em, you gotta move on. It’s 162 games for a reason. You gotta move on to the next one.”

2. Jared Shuster had a decent outing.

“He kept us in the game,” Snitker said.

Which is why this one hurt McHugh, who entered in relief in the bottom of the fifth inning.

McHugh walked the first batter to load the bases. Then he walked in the tying run.

Of McHugh’s first 10 pitches, only two were strikes. He had trouble locating his slider.

“(The sliders) were around the zone, but they weren’t swinging,” he said. “I gotta throw it in the zone, especially with guys on base. I couldn’t do it today.”

After issuing the bases-loaded walk, McHugh saw a slider toward the bottom of the zone turn into a hard-hit grounder that went past first baseman Matt Olson and to the right-field corner for a bases-clearing double.

The Giants led by three runs.

They never trailed again.

In the sixth inning, McHugh allowed two more runs. The four earned runs charged to McHugh tied a season high. He has had a few poor outings this year, but had only allowed one earned run over 11 1/3 innings in August.

Last season, McHugh inherited 38 runners, and 10 scored. Including Sunday, he’s permitted 10 of 34 inherited runners to cross home this year.

All along on Sunday, he tried to make in-game adjustments, which can be difficult.

“You do whatever you can,” McHugh said. “You mix pitches, you try and change locations. You try and do whatever you can to keep the ball in the zone. But they put together some good at-bats. I didn’t challenge them in the zone as much as I wanted to, and they took advantage of it.”

3. One reason the bottom of the sixth inning hurt even more: In the top half, Marcell Ozuna struck a two-run homer to pull the Braves within a run.

This was Ozuna’s fifth homer in six games. He had 10 RBIs in this stretch.

Is he feeling like the Marcell Ozuna of old?

“I feel like I’m closer,” Ozuna said. “I’m not 100%, but I’ll be able to, maybe (by the) playoffs. I’m just keeping quiet and coming every day with the same energy and giving it my best and working hard.”

4. Tristan Beck – Atlanta’s former draft pick whom the club sent to the Giants in the Mark Melancon deal – had a perfect game through four innings.

The Braves struck for three runs in the fifth. But the inning ended with a strange play.

With runners on second and third, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a soft grounder to the right side. The first baseman fielded it and threw to the pitcher. But the pitcher was not close to covering first, so he flipped it to the second baseman, who had gone over there.

That was one out.

Then the Giants threw home and got Orlando Arcia at the plate. The umpire had first ruled Arcia safe, but the call was overturned, and the inning over, after the Giants challenged it.

5. Sunday was only the 12th time the Braves have lost when scoring at least five runs.

“We play together every time,” Ozuna said. “If we lose, we lose together.”

Stat to know

5-for-10 - The Giants went 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position, their first time collecting at least five hits with men in scoring position since Aug. 7.


“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s God’s (call). If God says you don’t go, you don’t go. God has the key.”-Ozuna when asked if he could possibly be better than he is now, as he hinted he could

Up next

Bryce Elder will begin the series versus the Rockies, and he’ll pitch opposite Colorado lefty Austin Gomber. The game begins at 8:40 p.m. ET.

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