Matt Olson makes history, but Braves bullpen struggles again in loss to Marlins

MIAMI – On a night Matt Olson made history, the Braves’ bullpen – susceptible to its struggles in recent days – fell short late in the game.

The Braves lost the game 11-5, and the series, to the Marlins on Saturday at loanDepot park.

Five observations from the game:

1. In the sixth inning, Olson blasted his 52nd home run, which set a franchise record for home runs in a single year. It also tied the game.

Two innings later, the Marlins exploded and buried the Braves.

“We had a rough (seventh) inning yesterday, too,” manager Brian Snitker said.

The Braves on Friday allowed five runs in the seventh. On Saturday, Miami hung six in the eighth.

It started when Kirby Yates issued a two-out walk, then served up a go-ahead, two-run homer.

“He was breezing right along there and then the walk and the homer, and all heck broke loose,” Snitker said.

After the homer, Yates gave up a single and walked another batter. Snitker went to the mound to pull him. The manager inserted Michael Tonkin.

Tonkin walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a grand slam to Jazz Chisholm Jr.

“You go through that,” Snitker said of the bullpen’s recent struggles. “You’re never immune to anything like that. Anything can happen at any time. I love the way our guys are fighting back. We’re getting after it. We’ve just made a few hiccups – at bad times.”

2. On Monday and Tuesday in Philadelphia, Raisel Iglesias gave up game-tying home runs. The Braves then battled back and won both of those games.

But those homers are telling.

It’s not simply the low-leverage relievers. It’s everyone. No one has been immune.

Entering Saturday, the Braves’ bullpen had allowed 30 earned runs since Sept. 4 – the third most in baseball. Then Yates and Tonkin gave up six more – four were charged to Yates.

Bullpen struggles will always create panic around postseason time. It might be important to remember that Atlanta’s relievers had still combined to post baseball’s fifth-best bullpen ERA (3.61) before Saturday.

“They’re doing a great job,” Snitker said before Saturday’s game. “There’s gonna be times where it’s not a perfect science and they’re not gonna be perfect. Nobody is in this business.”

After the loss, Olson expressed confidence in the relievers.

“I mean, we got a lot of guys who’ve been doing it for a long time, with some really good stuff,” Olson said. “Some guys who want the ball and are competitors out there. It’s been two games here that a couple of things have happened. You can pick snapshots throughout the course of the year and kind of create a narrative for whatever you want. And if you look at the long run, we’re in a good spot and we trust every guy that’s on the mound.”

3. Olson’s record would be cool any way he did it.

The fact it happened with the Braves? Even better.

Olson grew up in the Atlanta area, and was a huge Braves fan.

“I was thinking about that,” said Michael Harris II, who was also a Braves fan growing up. “I looked at him and I was just like, ‘Wow, me and him were really Braves fans and he just broke a Braves record.’”

Olson hit the home run off Steven Okert in the sixth inning. To get the ball back, he offered a bat – and the chance to take pictures with him – to the fans who had it.

This homer will forever be a special memory for him.

“It was a cool moment,” Olson said. “It was cool to get the ball back. I’m sure it’ll be a nice keepsake to have.”

4. The Braves gave Jared Shuster a 3-0 lead before he even took the mound.

Four batters into his outing, though, the Marlins took a 4-3 lead.

Shuster allowed a leadoff home run before giving up a single. Then Austin Riley made an error. The fourth batter, Yuli Gurriel, blasted a two-run shot.

Shuster only lasted three innings as he surrendered five runs – four earned.

“I think I got behind in too many counts and didn’t execute pitches that well,” he said. “I think that’s a bad mix, especially against a good team.”

5. In the first inning, Ozzie Albies launched his 30th home run. It gave the Braves five players with at least 30 homers, which tied a MLB record. The 2019 Twins also did it.

“I think it’s obvious when you watch us play that we have the ability to leave the yard,” Olson said. “A lot of dangerous hitters in there, and combine that with a good approach. When hitting is contagious and you’re keeping the line moving, you’re gonna see some results.”

Stat to know

15 - Since 1995, only 15 players have totaled at least 52 home runs. Olson is one of them. This has only been done 24 times in this span. (There are repeats on the list.)


“He’s meant a lot. He’s a big reason why we have a lot of wins as well. Plays defense. He’s a great teammate, great guy. He keeps it light in the clubhouse. Cool with everybody. He just knows how to take care of everybody.” - Harris on Olson’s impact

Up next

Charlie Morton will start Sunday’s series finale against lefty Jesus Luzardo and Miami. The game begins at 1:40 p.m.