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Freeman homers twice, Viz blows big lead, Braves lose 9-8

PHOENIX – The Braves were on the road and Mike Foltynewicz was on the mound, which meant it was run-scoring time for the normally low-octane offensive outfit from Atlanta, who got two homers from Freddie Freeman and scored eight runs Monday.

But Arodys Vizcaino came on in relief, which lately has been quite and unsettling and unsuccessful proposition for the Braves. Vizcaino blew a 7-4 lead lead in the seventh inning and John Gant gave up a walk-off homer to Paul Goldschmidt leading off the ninth in a 9-8 loss to the Diamondbacks to start a four-game series at Chase Field.

Vizcaino, who has a 21.60 ERA in his past eight appearances, declined to talk to reporters after the game.

“It’s tough,” Freeman said after the Braves lost for the eighth time in nine games. “We had a three-run lead there and obviously gave up four runs. To come back just to lose it again, that’s gut-wrenching. But we’re playing good baseball. We’re scoring a lot of runs. Hopefully that can keep going and get on the winning side starting tomorrow.”

Freeman continued his career-long torrid hitting at Chase Field, hitting two-run homer in the first inning and a leadoff homer in the ninth to tie the score after Vizcaino blew a three-run lead. He has eight homers and 18 RBIs in his past 15 games, raising his career-high total to 26 homers.

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In 16 games at Chase Field, Freeman has hit .426 with eight doubles, eight homers and 23 RBIs.

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Freeman homered on first pitch he saw from Zack Godley in the first inning — after Freeman missed Sunday’s game with a finger injury — and Adonis Garcia hit a two-run homer in the three-run second inning as the Braves built a 5-0 lead.

“I wanted to come out swinging early, just to ease my mind,” Freeman said. “I did that in my first at-bat. Being able to hit it, just being able to put the mind at ease, was big for me to get going in this game.”

The Braves couldn’t protect the early lead. And after Foltynewicz gave up four runs in the second and third innings and the Braves scored two more in the fifth to push it back to 7-4, they couldn’t protect that lead either. But they weren’t done.

Freeman hit a tying homer on a 3-0 pitch to start the ninth inning against right-hander Enrique Burgos, hitting a 95-mph fastball after taking three 96-mph pitches.

“I knew he had 15 walks in 29 innings, knew he was a little wild,” Freeman said. “I knew he didn’t want to walk the leadoff guy, that’s why I was going for it on 3-0, and he just threw it right down the middle.”

The Diamondbacks similarly went after Vizcaino. He entered to begin the seventh inning with a three-run lead and was pulled seven batters later with two outs and the Braves trailing 8-4. The lead vanished quickly, and so has Vizcaino’s previously dominant form.

The former Braves closer – he had that role until he got hurt — gave up four hits, four runs and a walk, including a three-run double by Wellington Castillo that gave the Diamondbacks their first lead of the night, 8-7.

Vizcaino has allowed 12 earned runs in five innings over those eight appearances, including seven Braves losses. That includes five appearances before a one-month stint on the disabled list for a strained oblique, and three since.

“It’s command of his pitches,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “And I don’t know if he’s feeling for things and just aware of that. I think he’s trying to throw strikes and they’re just missing out over the plate. He’s been down (on the DL) a long time really and then just coming back…. His velocity is good and the stuff really is not that that bad, it’s just pretty much location, I think, and being consistent with that.”

Vizcaino has allowed one fewer earned run in his past eight appearances than in his previous 70 appearances as a Brave. He gave up 13 earned runs and had a 1.76 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 28 walks in 66 1/3 innings over those 70 appearances, beginning after an 80-game PED suspension in the first half of the 2015 season and running through June 27.

He has four strikeouts and 11 walks in five innings since, including at least one walk in all eight appearances.

Freeman had a homer and a double in the first two innings and Ender Inciarte had a single and a triple in those two busy frames for the Braves in the center fielder’s first game back at Chase since the Diamondbacks traded him to Atlanta.

Nick Markakis added three hits including a first-inning double and an RBI single in the two-run fifth inning.

But it was all for naught after the latest stumble for a weary bullpen that’s struggled mightily during the Braves’ current slump. No Atlanta starting pitcher has worked more than six innings in a game since July 17.

Foltynewicz gave up four runs in the first three innings, then settled in for three scoreless innings and was poised for his fourth win in his past six starts – despite a 5.94 ERA in that span. He was charged with nine hits and four runs in six innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks.

The Braves are the lowest-scoring team in the majors, but when Foltynewicz pitches on the road lately they transform into a formidable offense. They scored six, eight and seven runs (twice) while he was in the game in his past four road starts.

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