Braves could add Winkler to closer mix

Ronald Acuna’s eighth-inning homer gave the Braves a 211 lead, but Arodys Vizcaino gave up two runs in the ninth for a 3-2 loss. (Video by David O’Brien)

Braves manager Brian Snitker already said recently that Arodys Vizcaino would split closer duties with left-hander A.J. Minter, now it appears Snitker is ready to bring a third reliever – Dan Winkler -- into that equation.

This latest possibilty emerged after Vizcaino blew a save in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night.

Ronald Acuna’s eighth-inning homer gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in a series opener at SunTrust Park, but Vizcaino gave up two runs in the ninth inning on consecutive one-out doubles by Albert Amora and Addison Russell and a two-out single from Ben Zobrist as the Cubs pulled out a 3-2 win.

While it was only the second blown save for Vizcaino and third for the first-place Braves, in seven May appearances “Viz” has a 5.14 ERA and .286 opponents’ average, with eight hits and four runs allowed in seven innings.

Arodys Vizcaino, pictured in an April game against the Cubs in Chicago, blrew a save against them after giving up two runs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s night’s 3-2 loss at SunTrust Park. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Credit: Jonathan Daniel

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Credit: Jonathan Daniel

He’s given up four hits and three earned runs in his past two appearances including Sunday at Miami, where he entered with two runners on in the ninth inning and gave up a three-run homer in a 4-3 win (he was charged with one run).

Minter has converted both of his save opportunities and has a 2.65 ERA, but he’s walked 12 to go with 15 strikeouts in 17 innings for a .378 opponents’ on-base percentage. That includes nine walks in his past 10 innings.

Asked after Tuesdays’ game if anything had changed regarding the status of closer duties with Vizcaino and Minter, Snitker said, “Probably (use) both, just depends who’s rested more. I feel good that, if we wanted to keep them all somewhat healthy and fresh, Winkler could probably fit right in that role too. We have a few options.

“But that (Chicago) is a pretty good team and it happens. It happens to the best. The best closers in the league, that happens to. And they come right back the next day and get the save.”

Winkler and Shane Carle have been the Braves’ best and most reliable relievers, with Winkler striking out two more in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday to reduce his ERA to 0.98 and run his total to 27 strikeouts with five walks in 18 1/3 innings, with a puny .115 opponents’ average.

After being charged with two runs in 1-2/3 innings of the April 14 frozen-debacle game in Chicago, Winkler has allowed just two hits and two walks with 16 strikeouts in 10-1/3 scoreless innings over his past 13 appearances. He has a  .061 opponents’ average in that span of 13 appearances.