Twenty-one years after drafting him, the Texas Rangers pulverized Braves starter R.A. Dickey on Monday at SunTrust Park, as Atlanta fell 8-2 in the opening game of its final interleague series of the season.
Dickey lasted 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since July 24 against the Diamondbacks. He allowed eight hits, seven runs (six earned) while giving up two homers. Dickey hadn’t allowed a home run in his previous 14 innings entering the game, and owned a 2.58 ERA across his past 13 starts.
“I just kept hoping, when he ended the fourth he had gotten a hold of it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “... Just wasn’t happening.
“He’s a good match for everybody in the league, even the best offenses. ... It (the knuckleball) just didn’t have the bite consistently that it normally has. Those are good hitters. Anybody when it’s not doing what it normally does has a tendency to hit it. I just don’t think he ever got in a rhythm tonight. That’s the one pitch that will neutralize those big hitters.”
Dickey, who prides himself in eating innings, said it was the worst performance he’s had since allowing eight runs June 13 in Washington.
“It was an odd night,” Dickey said. “It was moving quite a bit, so it’s tough to catch, and it was certainly hard for the umpire behind the plate to call strikes on it. ... I was behind in the count quite a bit. Having to elevate that knuckleball, that’s tough when you have to do that. That’s a good team over there. Can’t make excuses. I just have to keep trying to execute.”
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, the second batter Dickey faced, put a 3-2 pitch into the left field stands to open the scoring. The former Braves prospect has 19 home runs, potentially collecting a 20 homer, 30 double-season.
Matt Adams, who Snitker plugged in at left Monday due to a need for at-bats, cut into a 5-0 Rangers lead with a two-run shot in the fourth. It was Adams’ 20th homer of the year, and 37 of his 72 hits with the Braves have gone for extra bases (17 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs).
“We wanted to get him some at-bats tonight,” Snitker said. “Just to see for the future pinch-hitting that he’s going to be doing.”
“I know that at-bats are going to be sparce,” Adams said. “With (Matt) Kemp healthy and Freddie (Freeman) going out there every day. So I appreciate them doing everything they can to try and get me in there.”
But there wasn’t enough offense to overcome the porous pitching. Andrus’ shot was the low point of a long first inning for Dickey. He held Texas to that lone run, but required 27 pitches to navigate the first five Rangers.
The second inning was worse for the Braves’ 42-year-old starter. Rougned Odor’s double was sandwiched between Mike Napoli and Robinson Chirinos walks. Rangers starter Andrew Cashner’s sacrifice fly to left and a ball that eluded Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki gave the Rangers another pair of runs.
After retiring Nomar Mazara to start the third, Dickey allowed a double, triple and walk, costing him another pair of runs and putting the Braves in a 5-0 hole. He pitched a perfect fourth before allowing a homer to Mazara in the fifth.
“It makes me want to throw up not going more than six innings,” Dickey said. “Tonight was a night where I had to be pretty good. We weren’t scoring many runs on him. I didn’t give us a good chance to win the ball game.”
Matt Wisler relieved Dickey with two outs in the fifth. He allowed a homer to Odor, the second batter he opposed. Wisler, Red Brothers, Jim Johnson and Luke Jackson allowed only one run in 4 2/3 innings of relief. The latter three combined to allow one hit.
The Braves had a chance to equal Texas in the bottom of the first. Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back one-out singles, but Nick Markakis flew out and Kurt Suzuki grounded out.
Albies has hit safely in 15 of his last 18 games. Fellow infielder Rio Ruiz added a single in the fourth, and has a hit in each of his four games since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. Ruiz has been on base at least twice in three of those contests.
Cashner retired eight of the next nine after Freeman’s first-inning single before walking Markakis and serving a homer to Adams. He went six innings, giving up just the homer to Adams.
“I feel like he was just one step ahead of us tonight,” Adams said. “He was keeping us off-balance.”
Since reaching .500 (45-45) on July 16, the Braves are a National League-worst 15-31. The team swept Arizona at home to reach that mark, but has gone 6-15 at SunTrust Park since.
The loss guarentees the Braves can’t finish with a winning record in interleague play. They sit at 8-10 with two remaining games against Texas. The Braves have gone 29-49 against the American League since 2014.
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