On the same afternoon a former Braves star took his place in Cooperstown, a current Brave fell just short of entering the franchise’s record book.
Left-hander Sean Newcomb held the Dodgers hitless for 8-2/3 innings before finishing one out short of the fourth no-hitter in Atlanta Braves history.
With two out in the ninth inning and a 2-2 count, the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor ended the no-hit bid with a clean single into left field, out of the reach of Braves third baseman Johan Camargo.
“I was happy to get to that point and annoyed it was just a ground ball through the hole,” Newcomb said. “In hindsight, you’d like to throw a different pitch or something. But I ... will just take that and go forward.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker lifted Newcomb, who had thrown 134 pitches, after Taylor’s hit. Reliever Dan Winkler allowed a run-scoring single before finishing Atlanta’s 4-1 victory.
Newcomb’s near-miss leaves the Braves with just three no-hitters since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966: by Phil Niekro vs. the San Diego Padres on April 5, 1973; a combined effort by Kent Mercer, Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena vs. the Padres on Sept. 11, 1991; and by Mercker vs. the Dodgers on April 8, 1994.
Newcomb’s bid came against a heavy-hitting Dodgers team that leads the National League in home runs and ranks second in the league in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
“It’s one of those lineups you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game against to put up some zeroes and give your team a chance to win,” Newcomb said. “You kind of step it up against teams like that.”
Newcomb retired the Dodgers’ first 15 batters of the game in order, including Manny Machado on a fly ball to deep center field in the fourth inning. The Dodgers got their first baserunner when Yasiel Puig walked to lead off the sixth inning, but Newcomb then got the next three batters in order, striking out two of them, to strand Puig at first base.
Newcomb retired the Dodgers in order in the seventh and eighth innings, striking out Puig to end the eighth. He also got the first two batters of the ninth before facing Taylor.
A 1-2 pitch to Taylor was close to a game-ending strikeout, but the umpire was correct in calling it a ball, both Newcomb and catcher Kurt Suzuki said afterward. The pitch was high, they agreed.
“I was crushed,” Suzuki said of his reaction to Taylor’s hit. “It felt like we lost, like that was a walk-off hit. But it happens. We were really close.”
“Anytime you’ve got (two out and) two strikes in the ninth inning and a no-hitter, that’s pretty good,” Snitker said. “It’s just a shame he couldn’t get it.”
The Braves, who had scored a combined four runs in the first three games of the series against the Dodgers, all Atlanta losses, scored four in the first three innings Sunday.
Three consecutive two-out hits – a single by Freddie Freeman and doubles by Nick Markakis and Suzuki – scored two runs in the first inning. A two-run homer by Markakis in the third inning made it 4-0.
Newcomb is now 10-5 with a 3.23 ERA in his first full big-league season, but he had struggled some recently. In his last three starts before the All-Star break, he lasted 2-2/3, 3-2/3 and 5-2/3 innings, allowing a total of 13 earned runs in those 12 innings. In his first start after the break, he held the Marlins to one run on four hits in six innings.
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