Jesse Biddle stood quietly at his locker, waiting to address the media less than 24 hours after declaring he wouldn’t contribute to another Braves bullpen meltdown. It was moments after he walked in the game-winning run.
“I feel a lot of things right now,” an emotional Biddle said. “But I’m going to want the ball tomorrow. I let the team down tonight in a tough way. They fought hard tonight and I didn’t pick them up when I had the chance.”
The Braves lost to the Diamondbacks, 3-2, in 10 innings on Wednesday night in SunTrust Park. It was the second consecutive night Biddle influenced the final result with walks. In Tuesday’s loss, he faced only two hitters and didn’t record in out.
Biddle professed he wanted the ball again after the first miscue, promising there wouldn’t be another botched opportunity – which makes Wednesday all the more difficult to endure.
In the top of the 10th, Biddle had a costly throwing error that allowed Tim Locastro to reach and advance to second. Biddle walked Jarrod Dyson, produced an out via Ender Inciarte’s excellent play in center, but then walked David Peralta to load the bases with two down.
His walk to Dyson was four pitches. His walk to Peralta was five. On his third and final walk, Adam Jones saw six pitches. Arizona took the lead and the series.
“I didn’t ever feel rattled at any point,” Biddle said. “I just have to go through some video and find out what’s wrong mechanically. I’m really frustrated. No matter how frustrated anybody else is, I’m extremely frustrated with myself. I know better than that.”
The Braves bullpen entered the night with a 5.43 ERA, sixth-worst in the majors. Relievers have walked 36 in 59-2/3 innings. There have been spurts of hope, but those are mostly glossed over by the same walking barrage that haunted the team a season ago.
For as good as Biddle is against right-handed batters, he’s going through a spell where he’s simply not finding the strike zone. The Braves could opt to send him to Triple-A, though he’s out of options and the team would risk losing him on a waiver claim. For now, the decision seems to be sticking with him as he works out the kinks.
“It’s the mental thing,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It absolutely is. Like we said the other day, you just have to get the ball over the plate better. I think we have to keep throwing him out there. It’s something he’s going to have to work through. He’s going to have to take a blow every now and then but work his way through it.
“He’s going to have to believe in himself, turn the thing loose and attack hitters. Not try to throw strikes, turn the ball loose. Trust the baseball guy inside you to take care of the rest instead of trying to do too much and be too fine. We’ve seen him really, really good. He’s been a big part of our last two years. And he’ll get it back again, he’s just going through a tough time right now.”
The loss overshadows Kevin Gausman’s career night. He struck out 10, tied for his most in a game, and allowed two runs on three hits. It was perhaps the best he’s looked since joining the Braves last July.
After missing the first week of the season, Gausman’s had a nice start. He tossed seven shutout innings against the Marlins in his debut before allowing four runs over 5-2/3 innings against the Mets. But Wednesday was his best showing.
Entering the night, Gausman was inducing swings and misses on 27.4 percent of his throws, with a lowly 15.3 percent of his pitches put in play. Opponents were 6-for-40 (.150) against him. He’s now struck out 22 in 19-2/3 innings.
“I threw the ball down when needed to and up when I wanted to,” Gausman said. “I had a real good feel for my split today too. … Tonight I drove those fastballs up in the zone and they had a little life to them.”
On a positive note, Gausman continues to be a revelation since the Braves snagged him at last year’s trade deadline. He’s an example of maximizing a player’s ability – buying low on an underachiever because he’s a tweak or two away from capturing his peak capabilities.
Mike Soroka makes his 2019 debut in Thursday’s matinee. The Braves will try to avoid being swept at home for the first time this season.
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