He arrived in Atlanta to a good deal of hoopla, along with fellow late-inning imports Chris Martin and Mark Melancon. He also came with 22 saves in 25 opportunities and an ERA of 1.18. His Braves ERA is somewhat higher — 18.00 — but there is time yet to whittle away at that.
And you thought the grinding of teeth over the back end of this bullpen was done. Don’t throw out those game-day orthodontics just yet.
“Unfortunate that I showed up with everybody excited for me to get the job done and I haven’t gotten that job done two days in a row. I got to pitch better,” Greene said Sunday following the Braves 10-inning, 6-4 loss to Cincinnati.
The three runs Greene gave up Sunday — on a first-pitch homer by Tucker Barnhart — undid another Ronald Acuna-sparked rally. Acuna drove in the winning run Saturday after Greene gave up a run in the ninth, blowing the save. But not even Acuna’s dramatic two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, tying the game at 3-3, could rescue the new reliever this time.
“He lives for that moment; he loves it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Sunday’s highlight. Acuna also led off the game for the Braves this day by turning what appeared to be a routine single into a double when Reds leftfielder Josh VanMeter was just a little slow to retrieve the ball.
As for Sunday’s lowlight, Snitker said, “Just couldn’t put the (10th) inning down — two out and nobody on, couldn’t get the last out.”
Greene had erased a lead-off single by Josh VanMeter by getting Nick Senzel to ground into a double play. Just one more out and the Braves would take the four-game series from the Reds. But, instead, they split. Instead,Greene gave up back-to-back, hard-hit singles to Aristides Aquino and Jose Iglessias, setting up Barnhart for his winning blow.
“Today I threw a homer pitch and he hit it over the fence,” Greene said.
He added, “Last night I felt like I had really good stuff, just some bad luck there. (Sunday) I made one bad pitch and paid for it.”
“Back door cutter that started backdoor and ended up more middle in,” said Greene’s catcher, Tyler Flowers. “That’s a spot that guy does damage. Obviously he was ready to get something out of that [at bat].”
Snitker was in no position or mood to make any judgments about his new closer, one of three relievers the Braves acquired at the close of July. “I haven’t seen him enough to think anything yet. Those guys have those kind of games. We’ll see,” the manager said.
Greene wasn’t the only trouble spot Sunday.
The Braves played with a new-look lineup, shifted around in order to give Freddie Freeman a break. Josh Donaldson moved to Freeman’s No. 3 spot, and Adam Duvall hit clean-up. Against this group, Reds starter Sonny Gray went seven shut-out innings. The Braves, relying strictly on home runs by Josh Donaldson, Acuna and Flowers, were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Starter Julio Teheran faced the minimum the first two innings and then lost the plate. He ended up walking six Reds, which tied a career high for him, while going five innings and giving up three runs.
“Typically, he has little better fastball command and we were trying to work around that a little today,” Flowers said.
But all focus was on the new closer and the squandering of what might have been another spectacular moment for Acuna.
Flowers spoke for patience, for the team that still has a seven-game lead in the NL East (both Washington and Philadelphia lost Sunday).
“Write it off as one of those things,” he said of Greene. “Everybody knows what he’s capable of and what he’s going to bring. We just got to work through it, get him back to where he was and he’ll be just fine for us.”