The late-innings drama overshadowed an eventful outing for Braves rookie Sean Newcomb in his eighth major league start. There was good news: He allowed only three hits, had a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings and retired the last nine batters he faced including six via strikeouts.
And there was bad news: Newcomb issued a career-high five walks including consecutive walks to start the fourth inning, just before Austin Barnes hit a three-run homer on an 0-2 fastball to turn a Braves lead into a 3-1 deficit.
“He ended up the last two innings about as good as you can get,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s a young pitcher and he’s learning. He’s went up against some really good ballclubs lately and held his own, and given us a chance. The homer you can live with that; he hooked it around the pole. But the walks leading up to that are what hurt.
“He’ll learn from it. He regrouped really well…. Just going to have to live with (some walks), because he’s learning. But that stuff is really good. His upside is really good and he’s getting some unbelievable experience right now.”
Newcomb retired ever batter he faced after the fourth-inning home run.
“I was pretty aggressive, that’s what kind of gets me in my groove a little bit,” he said. “Once he hit that home run I kind of got a little ticked out, kind of took that into my next two innings. I was probably more mad about those two walks before the home run, but I executed the pitch I wanted to (Barnes), he just got to that fastball inside and did a good piece of hitting right there.
“You kind of tip your cap and move on, but those two walks still kind of irritate me right now.”
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw left after two innings with a back injury and the Braves mustered two hits and one run in the next six innings against five Dodgers relievers. But the bats awakened in the ninth against a dominant closer, Jansen.
“Their bullpen is so deep,” Snitker said. “And then they get a three-run lead with that guy on the mound, it says a lot about our character to come back and tie the game.”
Singles from Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp started the ninth inning before Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers flied out.
The Braves were down to their last out with the potential tying run at the plate in the imposing Adams, who crushed a 1-1 cut fastball, quieting a crowd of 44,701 by sending a towering fly to the right-field corner seats to tie the score.
Jansen had a 0.88 ERA, .151 opponents’ average, four earned runs allowed and 24 of 24 save opportunities converted before Sunday, when the Braves tagged him for three runs on three hits including the third homer he’s allowed all season.
“Like I said when I first got over here, it’s just fun to be a part of a club like this,” said Adams, who has 16 home runs including 15 being traded from St. Louis on May 20. “I think it shows that no matter who’s out on the mound, what team we’re going up against, we never give up until that last out’s recorded. Today was a good example of that.”
But it wasn’t enough. The Braves showed plenty in fighting back in hostile territory, but lost for the fifth time in seven games in a difficult stretch against the Cubs and Dodgers.
It won’t get any easier Monday when they continue a three-city, 11-game trip with a series opener at Arizona against Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke.
With Kershaw out of the game after two hitless innings, the Braves took a 1-0 lead in the third against Ross Stripling when Ender Inciarte drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on a Brandon Phillips double.
Newcomb got into but out of trouble in the second inning when he gave up a one-out double and issued two walks to load the bases with two out before striking out Trayce Thompson pinch-hitting for Kershaw.
After the Braves gave him a 1-0 lead, Newcomb protected it one inning before command issues flared again.
After flirting with disaster by issuing consecutive walks to Logan Forsythe and Kike Hernandez to start the fourth inning, Newcomb gave up the homer to Barnes in the left-field corner. The Dodgers added a run in the eighth on Bellinger’s towering two-out homer off Rex Brothers, a run that proved crucial.
Newcomb had his fifth quality start in eight major league games and his first since June 27.
He had a 1.48 ERA and .202 opponents’ average in his first four starts in June, pitching at least innings and allowing six or fewer hits in each while issuing more than two walks just once. But in his past three starts before Sunday he’d been knocked around for an 11.37 ERA and .393 opponents’ average, averaging barely four innings while allowed four or more runs each time out and issuing nine walks plus hit two batters in 12 2/3 innings.
Newcomb cut way back on the hits allowed Sunday, but the walks were a reminder that he’s still a work in progress.