BOSTON—It can be difficult for the Braves to win even when they get strong starting pitching because their lineup lacks pop and the bullpen is hit-or-miss.
They have virtually no chance with the kind of outing Bud Norris delivered Wednesday night.
The Red Sox hammered Norris early and went on to a 9-4 interleague victory at Fenway Park. The Braves were well on their way to an eighth straight loss once Dustin Pedroia hit a grand slam off Norris in the second inning to put the Red Sox ahead 6-1.
The Braves (4-17) set a franchise record for April losses going back to at least 1913, the first year official records are available. The Braves did manage to end their franchise record for games without a home run when Freddie Freeman hit a solo shot against reliever Tommy Layne in the eighth inning.
Norris lasted just 1 1/3 innings while allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks. After David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez each had an RBI in the first inning, the Braves answered with Kelly Johnson’s run-scoring single in the second
Norris couldn’t keep it competitive. He gave up singles to Ryan Hanigan and Mookie Betts, sandwiched around a walk to Jackie Bradley Jr., before Pedroia smashed a line drive against “Pesky’s Pole” about 300 feet down the right-field line. It was Pedroia’s third career grand slam against Norris.
Ortiz followed with his second double to chase Norris, who threw just 26 strikes among his 48 pitches and allowed every Red Sox batter except for Brock Holt to reach base. Norris now has an 8.74 ERA in five starts during his first season with the Braves.
“I was just trying to battle and get some outs,” Norris said. “They put some good swings on balls and did damage on some mistakes. Not much I can say. I’m frustrated and I’ll take ownership.”
The Braves managed just three hits over seven innings and none after the third against Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright. He allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out eight batters and walking three.
The Braves left the bases loaded when Kelly Johnson flied out in the third inning.
“I thought we had a pretty good approach early in the game against Wright but I’ve never seen a knuckeball go sideways,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ” Usually a knuckleball goes down, and goes down hard. His knuckleball at times was almost like a cutter. He was tough and he got the outs when he needed the outs.”
Pedroia added a solo home run in the eighth against Braves reliever Jason Grilli. Ortiz went 3-for-5 while tying a career high with three doubles.
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