Dallas Keuchel had given up four runs total across six starts since mid-August entering Tuesday’s start. The Phillies tagged him for five runs in the fourth inning of the Braves’ 5-4 loss, spoiling the opener of the team’s final homestand.
Yet Keuchel’s other four frames were scoreless. He’s made a name for himself by working out of jams, inducing the groundball when its needed most. Maybe the southpaw was just finally due a bad inning.
“It’ll stay with me for a while,” Keuchel said. “But you have to give them credit too so we’ll get after San Francisco (his next start).”
The veteran owned a 0.97 ERA with a 35:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past six outings before Tuesday. He was humming early, retiring the first eight Phillies. The Braves staked him a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Yet it unraveled in the fourth – and only the fourth. Philadelphia’s rally began with Bryce Harper’s one-out single that set up Rhys Hoskins’ two-run homer. Harper’s single was made possible by Josh Donaldson’s inability to reel the ball in at third base.
Scott Kingery’s infield single and Sean Rodriguez’s hit continued the Phillies’ onslaught. Kingery scored the go-ahead run on Cesar Hernandez’s groundout. Jose Pirela cranked his first home run of the season to complete the five-run frame.
“I just let a few bad pitches get to me,” Keuchel said. “That was really it. The good run I was on, I was bearing down and making good pitches in critical situations. I let a few pitches, a few bad-luck balls get to me.”
Keuchel made it through five innings – his first time failing to reach six since Aug. 8 – allowing two homers and exiting in a 5-2 hole. His two-seamer registered just two swinging strikes in 52 throws. His 13 cutters coaxed one swing and miss. He struck out only two Phillies.
And so Keuchel’s 200th start went awry. It snapped the Braves’ six-game winning streak in his starts. The loss was only his second in nine starts at SunTrust Park.
It’s far from concerning long-term. Keuchel has been the team’s best starter for a month. There’s a world where a break or two goes his way in the fourth, and he escapes in a 2-2 game.
“It was just one inning,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I felt like we might’ve given him an extra out. You can’t do that. It’s tough to overcome that. But that’s it. Just one inning. … You always feel like he’s a pitch away from getting out of trouble. It just didn’t happen.”
Vince Velasquez held the Braves in check for five innings. It wasn’t until the eighth that the team again showed life, with Adeiny Hechavarria hitting the second pinch-hit homer of his career (both came this season).
Hechavarria’s homer made history: His was the team’s 236th shot, setting the franchise’s single-season home-run record previously held by the 2003 club.
Adam Duvall led off the ninth with his own pinch-hit shot, pulling the Braves within one. Ronald Acuna walked and stole second, inching him closer to the 40-40 club with 39 homers and 37 steals. Ozzie Albies moved him to third on a grounder to first, positioning the Braves’ middle of the order to tie or win the game.
Freddie Freeman walked, putting runners at the corners, but Josh Donaldson struck out looking on an aptly placed pitch from Hector Neris. Nick Markakis’ shallow pop ended the game.
“It doesn’t happen all the time,” Snitker said. “It’s happened so much here that you expect it. These guys come off the mat, get the big hits, they never quit, they always put themselves in position to win and you expect them to win. That’s a pretty good trait to have.”
Julio Teheran will start for the Braves on Wednesday against Zach Eflin. With Tuesday’s loss, the earliest the Braves can clinch the National League East is Thursday. Their magic number remained three after the Nationals won in St. Louis.
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