Garcia sharp, but throwing error and homer off Viz sink Braves

Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia throws against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia throws against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

ANAHEIM – Jaime Garcia was good enough that he didn’t need much help against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, and for much of the night it appeared Matt Kemp’s second-inning homer would do the trick for the Braves.

But an errant throw from rookie Rio Ruiz let in a tying run in the seventh inning and a leadoff homer from one-time Braves outfielder Eric Young Jr. off Arodys Vizcaino in the eighth spoiled the night for Garcia, Kemp & Co., and lifted the Angels to a 2-1 win in the series finale.

“Fortunately it wasn’t (enough),” Kemp said of his 250th career homer and 10th this season. “We fell short. We’ve got to make plays, make things happen. We made some mistakes that cost us the game.”

It was the first major league homer from Young since May 2014, when he was with the Mets. He was the first batter faced by Vizcaino after Garcia pitched seven strong innings, and the homer snapped a streak of 13 scoreless appearances by Vizcaino going back to April 23.

“It happens,” said Bravesn manager Brian Snitker, who was ejected for the first time this season after arguing a balk against Garcia in the fifth inning. “(Vizcaino) has been throwing so good, and he is throwing good. Hats off to the hitter.”

Garcia and Angels starter Eric Chavez staged a pitcher’s duel, with Garcia allowing just five hits, three walks and one unearned run to continue his recent string of impressive performances. Chavez also allowed five hits and one run with one walk in seven innings, the run coming on Kemp’s second homer in as many nights.

The Angels didn’t advance a runner to second base until the fifth inning, when the balk moved Shane Robinson to second base. He stole third base before Garcia got an inning-ending groundout to protect the 1-0 lead.

Garcia issued two walks in the sixth, but induced a double-play grounder to erase the first runner and another ground-ball out after the second walk.

“He was really good,” Snitker said. “Just kept getting ground balls. Did a great job, third time in a row.”

Garcia has allowed no earned runs and nine hits in 13 2/3 innings in two starts on the trip, including a win at San Francisco when he pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

The left-hander allowed nine hits, eight earned runs and nine walks in 11 1/3 innings over two games May 10 and May 16, but in three starts since Garcia has given up just 16 hits, one earned run and five walks with 15 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings (0.42 ERA).

“It’s just too bad we couldn’t get him a win today,” Kemp said. “He pitched extremely well to get that win. We’ve got to just make plays, close out ballgames…. These are games we need to win, these really close games. We just fell short.”

With a 3.18 ERA, Garcia has been the exception in an overall disappointing Braves starting rotation. He hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs all season and pitched at least six innings in seven of his past eight starts.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m in a good spot right now, just executing pitches and keeping the ball on the ground. Using both sides of the plate, making pitches when I need to make pitches…. Their guy (Chavez) did a great job. It’s a tough game for us, definitely. We wanted to get that W.”

Jaime Garcia gave up no earned runs in 7 innings, but an unearned run and a homer allowed by Arodys Vizcaino gave the Angels a 2-1 win Wednesday. (Video by David O'Brien)

The Braves failed to score after leadoff singles from Ender Inciarte in the sixth inning and from Tyler Flowers in the seventh, and those missed opportunities became glaring when the Angels tied the score in the seventh.

The run was unearned, just as seven of the Angels’ nine runs were unearned in their 9-3 win Tuesday, when the Braves made three errors in one nine-run inning.

They made three more errors Wednesday, including the second in as many days by shortstop Dansby Swanson, whose 11 errors this season are more than double the next-highest total among Braves. The team has the most unearned runs (37) in the majors and the most errors (41) in the National League.

“Like I said (before the game), we’re just not built to give extra outs,” Snitker said. “There’s 27 outs and we’ve got to get all of them. It’s something that we have to do better.”

Ruiz, a Southern California native who had many friends and family members in attendance throughout the series, showed good range and a strong arm on several plays Wednesday. But in the seventh, his error was critical.

Jeffrey Marte had an infield single to start the inning before a Martin Maldonado grounder and a force at second for the first out. Danny Espinosa followed with a chop single that bounced too high for Ruiz to make a play.

That put runners at first and second with one out for Robinson, who hit a sharp grounder to Ruiz. He made a nice play and stepped on third for the force. As Maldonado slid in hard, Ruiz planted his feet and threw across the diamond trying for a double play, and his throw bounced past fill-in first baseman Jace Peterson into foul territory, allowing the tying run to score all the way from first base.

“His feet were on the ground, it’s just about making a good throw,” Snitker said. “He did a good job of getting out of the way (of the slide) and clearing his feet. Just didn’t make the throw.”

The Braves dropped first two series on a three-city trip, losing two of three games at San Francisco and again at Anaheim, and they’ll have their first day off in three weeks Thursday before beginning a three-game series Friday in Cincinnati.

Kemp’s leadoff homer in second inning was also his 40th hit in May. And when Ender Inciarte singled to start the sixth inning the pair became just the fourth set of Braves teammates since 1900 to have at least 40 hits apiece in May and the first to do it since Hank Aaron and Johnny Logan in 1959. Kemp added a ninth-inning single and is hitting .345.

In Other News