A faulty night was bound to happen for Kevin Gausman. And his offense didn’t have enough juice to bail him out.
Gausman has been brilliant since the Braves acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline. Rejuvenated in a pennant race, he’s flashed the qualities one would expect from a former top-five draft selection.
He exhibited the traits of an ace. He ate innings, kept hitters off balance. His discernment on the mound rivaled some of the better artists in baseball.
Eventually, Gausman would have a lackluster start, and it occurred in his first outing in the desert. He was hit hard and often, permitting four runs in what became a 5-3 loss to the Diamondbacks.
It was by no means a terrible outing. The game stayed within the Braves’ reach. But it was a tier below what they’ve come to expect from their midseason acquisition.
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“I wasn’t as sharp as I have been in the past,” Gausman said. “They did a good job of longer at-bats, fouling off pitches and getting my pitch count up.”
The Braves won an extra-innings thriller 7-6 Thursday, but Patrick Corbin wouldn’t allow a similar offensive effort Friday. The lefty soon-to-be free agent tossed six one-run frames, scattering four hits and striking out nine.
It was a needed win for Arizona, which watched the two teams ahead of it in the National League West duke it out in Colorado. The Braves dropped to 5-6 in NL West cities this season and 40-30 on the road, still the best record in the senior circuit.
Johan Camargo provided a bright spot for the Braves, blasting a deep homer to center for his 17th of the year and doubling twice. Since assuming regular third-base duties May 20, his 15 homers trail only Ronald Acuna (20) for the team lead.
“He’s a highlight reel,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Offensively, defensively, the kid’s playing unbelievable. He’s maturing, growing. He’s come so far. He’s showing us he’s a legit guy.”
Camargo did the bulk of the offensive work. Acuna led off the eighth with a single off Archie Bradley. He stole second and scored on Camargo’s double down the left-field line.
Acuna and Camargo sparked a late rally. Ozzie Albies hit into a potential double play ball with the bases loaded, but the Diamondbacks botched the play at second, allowing a run to score that made it 4-3.
Brad Ziegler rung up Adam Duvall on a low-and-inside strike. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was ejected for arguing from the dugout. Outfielder Ender Inciarte had been ejected earlier in the game for expressing displeasure with home plate umpire Doug Eddings’ strike zone. Snitker was tossed from Thursday’s game for similar reasons.
The strikeout loomed large. A sacrifice fly would’ve knotted the game. Instead Duvall, who subbed in for the ejected Inciarte, didn’t put the ball in play and Dansby Swanson flew out to preserve the Diamondbacks’ lead.
Camargo is hitting a robust .347 with runners in scoring position. His physical development and maturing offensive game, along with his glove work, which he showcased with an impressive throw from his knees in the seventh, provide more credence to the belief he could be worthy of the starting job moving forward.
His efforts couldn’t overcome Gausman’s uncharacteristic night. The righty entered with a 1.66 ERA and .190 opponents average since coming over from Baltimore. Arizona had seven hits and four runs against him in a five-inning start that was undone by the third.
In a 1-1 game, five consecutive Diamondbacks reached. Gausman allowed three straight singles before walking A.J. Pollock. Daniel Descalso’s ensuing hit capped a three-run inning that staked Arizona to a 4-1 lead.
Descalso’s hit rocketed by first baseman Freddie Freeman. The Diamondbacks were making solid contact, with the added fortune of finding the perfect spots to hit them. It resulted in the worst game of Gausman’s brief Braves tenure.
“It was just one of those days,” Snitker said. “He had to really work and grind. He just wasn’t as sharp as he had been. A few walks, they found some holes. He had to work really hard to get through the game he did.”
Paul Goldschmidt had a pair of hits off Gausman, including a mammoth first-inning homer. Gausman allowed a hit in every inning, including the fourth when Corbin scooted a ball past third. He was doubled off at first to prevent any harm.
Gausman walked Goldschmidt and Pollock in the fifth, two of his four walks on the night, which led to Snitker lifting him with two on and two out. Resident “first reliever in” Sam Freeman struck out Descalso.
“Just wasn’t consistent with my off-speed,” Gausman said. “I didn’t throw enough off-speed pitches for strikes and they started eliminating it. ... It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. You’re going to have nights where you cruise through eighth innings, and ever hit that’s hit hard happens to be right at guys, and you’re also going to have nights on the other side of it. So I feel good where I’m at. I’ve done some good things since coming over here. But obviously tonight we needed me to go deep, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
After allowing six runs across five August starts, Gausman allowed four in his second September start. It was the first time he’d allowed more than three runs as a Brave, and the seven hits were the most he’d surrendered since his final start with the Orioles on July 28. His 4 2/3 innings made for his shortest outing since the trade.
Kyle Wright made his second major-league appearance. He walked Goldschmidt but settled in for the next three outs. The Braves’ eventful eighth inning left him waiting, and the break didn’t do him any favors. He permitted a leadoff single and walked two to end his evening.
Eduardo Escobar’s sacrifice fly off Luke Jackson gave Arizona an insurance run. It was the first charged run of Wright’s career.
The Phillies will breathe a sigh of relief after finally winning on a day the Braves went down. The Braves’ National League East advantage was cut to 2 1/2 games, though that’s still a net half-game in the past two days. The Braves won Thursday while the Phillies were idle.