The Braves used nine pitchers, got a two-run homer from Gordon Beckham, stellar outfield defense and four strong innings from a rookie pitcher on short rest, and played for nearly five hours Wednesday night.
Still, they couldn’t reverse their lousy fortunes at Turner Field.
A bases-loaded single from Jonathan Villar in the 13th inning lifted the Brewers to a 3-2 win that dropped the Braves to 2-19 at home this season, including 0-11 in games decided by one run.
The Braves are 12-33 overall and 2-7 in extra-inning games, including a pair of 13-inning losses in the past 10 days. They’ve scored three runs in 31 innings over their past three games, including a shutout loss at Philadelphia Sunday and the first two games of a three-game series against the Brewers, who clinched their first road series win of the season.
With rookie Casey Kelly pitching his fourth inning on short rest for the Braves, the Brewers loaded the bases with none out in the 13th inning on a Kirk Nieuwenhuis single, Aaron Hill walk and a popped-up bunt by Keon Broxton that fell for a single just in front of the diving Kelly, the first hit of Broxton’s major league career.
After a fielder’s choice for the out at home, Villar’s single to left drove in the go-ahead run, with left fielder Mallex Smith making a strong throw to the plate to gun down Smith and prevent a second run from scoring.
“I can’t say enough about what I just witnessed out there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Kelly’s performance. “The kid was unbelievable. I mean, just remarkable. You talk about leaving it out there and stepping up – it’s just a shame we couldn’t get him a win.”
“I’ve been here a week and a half and I’ve seen that out of all them guys. I don’t know, I just keep believing. I keep pushing. Good things are going to happen. What Casey did was pretty spectacular.”
Having burned through the entire bullpen by the end of the ninth inning, Kelly threw 77 pitches in four innings, three days after tossing 85 pitches in five innings of his start Sunday at Philadelphia.
“Anytime you get the call you’ve got to be ready — it’s the big leagues,” said Kelly, who threw a bullpen side session before Wednesday’s game, since he had been scheduled to start Saturday. (The Braves haven’t announced who’ll replace him Saturday, but Aaron Blair is a likely candidate).
Beckham’s two-run, pinch-hit homer in the sixth gave the Braves a 2-1 lead on a night when they squandered every scoring opportunity with runners in scoring position (he homered with a runner on first base).
The Brewers tied it two innings later on Nieuwenhuis’ RBI groundout, after reliever Bud Norris gave up a single and a blistered opposite-field double by Carter to put runners on second and third with one out. The infield was playing back and Beckham fielded Niewenhuis’ grounder and threw to first base, with no chance for the out at home.
“I wasn’t going to bring the infield in because I didn’t want to shorten the field and let them get the go-ahead run,” Snitker said. “We still have at-bats left right there. We’re in trouble, really, and it wasn’t a situation where we wanted to walk anybody and I didn’t want to shorten the field and give them the go-ahead run. If we get out of there tied we’re still in good shape, we’ve got the last at-bat. That’s how I looked at that one.”
The Braves used their entire bullpen to get through the last 3 1/3 innings after starter Mike Foltynewicz gave up one run, four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Five different pitchers recorded one out apiece.
Kelly, the ninth pitcher for the Braves, struck out Chris Carter with bases loaded to end the 12th inning, after two-out intentional walks to Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy.
For Atlanta native Beckham, the home run was his first as a Brave and the first pinch-hit homer of the former University of Georgia standout’s eight-year major league career. It was just the seventh homer in 21 home games for the Braves and first by someone on the current roster other than Freddie Freeman, who has four.
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the fifth after Foltynewicz issued a leadoff walk to Broxton, who’s 1-for-25 with 16 strikeouts in his career. Broxton advanced on a sacrifice and a wild pitch, and scored on Jonathan Villar’s sacrifice fly.
“I tried to make the slider even more nasty than what it is,” Foltynewicz said of walking Broxton. “I just kind of get amped up sometimes. I know that run was pushed across (after) the wild pitch. If we don’t do that, the game might have had a different outcome.
Beckham’s homer came against left-hander Chris Capuano, with A.J. Pierzynski on first after a leadoff single in the sixth. It’s worth noting he was on first because the Braves went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, all in the first five innings.
Freddie Freeman went 0-for-6, including five at-bats with at least one runner on base. He was 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, each time with less than two outs. Nick Markakis, batting cleanup behind Freeman, was 0-for-6 including 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Markakis has hit .160 with two extra-base hits and five RBIs in 21 May games, after batting .302 with 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs in 23 April games.
Freeman has hit .185 with four extra-base hits and 16 strikeouts in his past 13 games, after batting .423 with nine extra-base hits in his previous 14 games. Freeman has been one of baseball’s best with runners in scoring position for most of his career, but he’s just 5-for-37 (.139) with 11 walks and 12 strikeouts in those situations this season, second-lowest average among Braves with at least 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
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