Three Cuts: Brewers get to emergency starter Stults, dump Braves
ATLANTA — One night after their offense erupted for a double-figure outburst, the Brewers turned the table on the Braves.
A seven-run fourth inning amid the struggles of emergency starter Eric Stults — who walked five — and Trevor Cahill put the Braves in a hole and the offense had little answer for Wily Peralta and Co. as Milwaukee cruised 11-0 Friday night.
It was the second time this season the Braves have been shut out.
"Unfortunately it was just one of those nights," Stults said. "Didn’t get hit hard, but the walks came back to bite me.
From that ugly fourth-inning to retaliation for Will Smith’s ejection and more, taking three cuts from Turner Field.
Sporting a 40.7 percent fly-ball rate, Ryan Braun was probably the last person Stults wanted to see three batters into his start for an ailing Alex Wood.
Braun took Stults deep for a two-run home run, starting off a rocky night for the left-hander. He only allowed three hits, but was hampered by five walks as he lasted 3 2/3 innings after giving up seven runs. Those were the most runs that Stults (1-5) has allowed since equaling that number on Sept. 4, 2013 against the Giants.
After Braun’s homer Stults appeared be settling in. He faced the minimum in the second and third innings (thanks to Carlos Gomez getting caught stealing on a 1-3-4 play), and had two outs in the fourth after retiring Aramis Ramirez (fly out) and Jason Rogers (strikeout).
He gave the Brewers life with a double to Hector Gomez, then intentionally walked Martin Maldanado to load the bases and get to pitcher Wily Peralta.
Then the floodgates opened.
Stults led Peralta 1-2, but threw four straight balls to walk in a run. Luis Sardinas followed with an RBI single for a 4-0 lead to chase Stults, but replacement Trevor Cahill would give way to five more runs — three credited to Stults.
"I thought the (turning) point of the game was that we walked the pitcher with the bases loaded, two outs," Gonzalez said. "Then all of a sudden it went from a 2-0 game, which was reachable, very reachable, to they scored seven runs and it really got out of hand. From that point on we were just trying to piece it together."
It was a rarity for the Braves, who haven’t seen a starter give up seven or more runs since Aaron Harang last June 18, 2014 vs. the Phillies. It’s also been nearly 12 years since the Brewers had this high scoring of a game vs. Atlanta, last hitting double figures on June 25, 2003.
This also marked the Braves’ worst shutout loss since they fell 12-0 to the Diamondbacks on May 16, 2009.
"I felt like that was an inning I could have limited the damage, but I wasn’t able to do it," Stults said.
As for Wood, he is expected to come in Saturday morning and meet with the medical staff. Gonzalez noted he could come back out of the bullpen before making his next start.
Never mind that Freddie Freeman voiced his opinion for pitchers using foreign substances. The Brewers opted to make the multi-time All-Star first baseman pay for Gonzalez bringing attention to reliever Will Smith, who was ejected Thursday for having sunscreen and rosin on his forearm.
Wily Peralta threw a 95-mph fastball toward Freeman that he jumped back to avoid and if it did hit him it just grazed him. Nonetheless, Freeman was put on first.
It was an odd choice in who to plunk given that after Thursday’s Braves win, Freeman said the following: "Every pitcher does it. As a hitter you want them to do it so they have a better grip, so we don’t get hit in the head. But just hide it better next time."
Smith, who was suspended eight games — ban that he is planning to appeal — said he uses it for grip and not to gain movement on pitches.
"That’s it. It’s the grip," he told reporters. "It’s not going to spin more. You’re not going to throw harder. You’ve got what you got."
Atlanta outfielder Jonny Gomes had choice words for Smith and any other pitcher looking to gain an edge.
"At the end of the day the reason there is a rule is because it’s performance-enhancing," he said. "I think if you’re in the big leagues your should know how to control all two, three, four, five of your pitches."
Whether retaliation was warranted or not given that a guy was ultimately called out for breaking a rule, Peralta and Milwaukee deemed it was Freeman that needed to pay for it.
Just think what would have happened had he voiced a different opinion.
The biggest knock against the since dismantled version of Atlanta’s offense was its feast or famine nature.
Given that it was shut out 16 times last year and 17 more in ’13 (figures that are in the top 14 in franchise history), that narrative was apropos.
But even amid those zeros in the run column in ’14 the Braves still managed to get men on base. The combined no-hitter at the hands of the Phillies on Sept. 1 marked the only time last season in which Atlanta had less than three hits in a game. In all they had three or less seven times.
Friday vs. Milwaukee the Brewers managed three hits — one of which came off of Peralta — and Cameron Maybin’s eighth-inning single was the second for the starting lineup (the other came from Cahill).
That leaves Atlanta three games from tying last season’s games with three or less hits and it has played just a little over a quarter of the season.
These Braves still aren’t striking out in bunches. They had eight on Friday night — more than their season average of 6.2 — but as this loss ending on a sharply hit line drive to Luis Sardinas showed, putting the ball in play hasn’t been enough to entirely distance this Braves offense from last year’s.
"It’s hard to battle from those deficits and we had some balls that were hit hard," Gonzalez said.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney