Toussaint, Braves crushed by Orioles in series opener

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Touki Toussaint (62) is removed by manager Brian Snitker (43) during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Baltimore. (Terrance Williams/AP)

Credit: Terrance Williams

Credit: Terrance Williams

The Braves' rotation entered Monday night with a collective 5.95 ERA, third worst in the majors. It won’t look any better Tuesday morning.

Baltimore’s nine-run third inning helped sink the Braves, 14-1, in the series opener at Camden Yards. Braves starter Touki Toussaint was charged eight runs in 2-2/3 innings.

“Command wasn’t great,” manager Brian Snitker said of Toussaint. “When they hit it, it was out of our reach, and when he made a bad pitch, he didn’t get it back. It just wasn’t a real good night.”

The Orioles' big inning began with a Cedric Mullins walk. Those who’ve followed Toussaint’s career know he’s been plagued by walks, and that was the case again Monday with three. Jose Iglesias followed with a single that set up DJ Stewart’s three run homer, which pushed the Orioles' lead to 4-0.

Rookie slugger Ryan Mountcastle homered off a slider in the next at-bat. The Braves stuck with Toussaint, who recorded two outs around a walk to Renato Nunez. He almost escaped with an Austin Hays grounder to third, but Austin Riley couldn’t collect the ball and Hays was safe at first.

Luke Jackson replaced Toussaint after he walked Andrew Velazquez. Mullins' bases-loaded single scored two more for a 7-0 lead. Iglesias capped the inning with a three-run shot off Jackson, who allowed all the inherited runners to score with two outs.

The Braves have had multiple 10-run innings this season, and the struggling staff has certainly had its share of poor nights, so they’re well aware of how quickly situations spiral. This time, the inning went against them.

Brighter days seem to be ahead for the rotation, but that doesn’t change the past or present. The Braves had a starter fail to pitch beyond five innings for the 30th time in 48 games. They’re hoping the four-man group of Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright - which is supposed to materialize this week - will finally stabilize the rotation.

“We’ve been fighting this all year with some short starts,” Snitker said. “We’ve done an unbelievable job being where we are with all we’ve had. But it’s good looking forward, getting Cole stretched out, Ian, Kyle, Max gets back in there doing what he can do. That should solidify things really well.”

It’s likely Toussaint made his last start this season It was another campaign littered with command issues, leaving the same questions unanswered. Whatever the Braves have in Toussaint, it hasn’t been unleashed as a starter.

Toussaint has an 8.88 ERA this season and a 5.97 mark in 38 career games (11 starts). It’s not a huge sample size, but that’s because the right-hander hasn’t earned extended opportunities. The 60-game season hasn’t provided any more clarity on what the tantalizing but underwhelming Toussaint can become.

“I don’t know why consistency is the problem,” Snitker said. “The problem with commanding the fastball again. Even commanding your breaking ball. You leave it in the middle of the plate. He threw some really good ones. He threw some really good fastballs. The curveball was good. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for it. I don’t know.”

Orioles baserunner Jose Iglesias (11) is tagged out in a rundown by Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson in the first inning of Monday's game in Baltimore. (Terrance Williams/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Notes from Monday:

- First baseman Freddie Freeman homered in the sixth. It was all the Braves managed against Orioles starter Jorge Lopez, who held them to five hits across seven innings.

- It wasn’t a grand homecoming for Nick Markakis. Pat Valaika hit a deep line drive to right, where Markakis saw the ball bounce off the top of his glove and over the wall for a seventh-inning homer.

- The Braves made a pair of transactions involving veterans earlier in the day. They released lefty Robbie Erlin, who was designated for assignment Saturday, and signed infielder Pablo Sandoval. The Braves have searched for bench help throughout the season, and Sandoval at least adds to their options as the postseason approaches.

- After defeating the Phillies again, the Marlins are only 2-1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. The Phillies, who’d play the Braves if the postseason began today, are four back.

- Huascar Ynoa will start for the Braves Tuesday. They’ll need to win the next two to take their first series in Baltimore since 2004.